Sporting KC Bounces Back with Impressive Win

Daniel Salloi scored early and Alan Pulido struck twice as Sporting Kansas City (3-2-1, 10 points) rolled to a resounding 3-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2-3-1, 7 points) on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting dominated their Canadian counterparts from wire to wire, outshooting Vancouver 27-9 and completing 91.4 percent of their passes — the club’s second highest clip in an MLS match since Opta began tracking the statistic in 2010. Salloi drew first blood in the 28th minute, moving into eighth place in club history with his eighth game-winning goal in the regular season. Pulido was equally sharp in the final third, converting a 32nd-minute penalty and adding another goal on 58 minutes, while goalkeeper Tim Melia helped Sporting to their first shutout of the season in his 2021 debut.

Sunday’s result vaults Sporting into a provisional tie for third place in the Western Conference standings ahead of next Saturday’s trip to the San Jose Earthquakes (3-3-0, 9 points), slated to kick off at 9 p.m. CT inside Avaya Stadium with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City. Manager Peter Vermes’ men are now 5-0-1 in their last six regular season meetings against Vancouver, scoring 20 goals and conceding just three during that stretch.

A retooled Sporting Kansas City lineup featured four changes from Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Houston Dynamo FC, highlighted by the return of Melia. The former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year was back on the pitch after missing his team’s five matches with a pectoral injury, while fellow veterans Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza slotted into defense and midfield, respectively. In attack, forward Khiry Shelton replaced injured captain Johnny Russell to make his 100th MLS regular season appearance.

The hosts asserted their dominance early and almost broke the deadlock inside six minutes when Zusi’s pinpoint delivery was nodded high and wide by an unmarked Gadi Kinda. Ten minutes later, Shelton dashed onto an Ilie Sanchez long ball and lobbed an audacious chip shot from a tight angle that beat Vancouver keeper Maxime Crepeau but narrowly missed the mark. Crepeau then produced an outstanding save in the 21st minute, diving to his right at full extension after Espinoza connected well with Kinda’s cross.

Zusi created another massive opportunity in the 27th minute, whipping an inch-perfect ball to the back post that Salloi redirected across Crepeau and marginally wide. Salloi would atone for the miss one minute later, however, embarking on an incisive move down the left channel by combining with Pulido and striking low into the corner for his second goal of the season and his first tally at Children’s Mercy Park since September 2019. The play also extended Sporting’s regular season home scoring run to 18 matches, the second-longest streak in team history.

With momentum firmly on Sporting’s side, Salloi continued to stamp his name on proceedings by drawing a foul on Ryan Raposo inside the box. Pulido buried the ensuing 32nd-minute penalty kick, firing low to Crepeau’s right to join Salloi and Kinda with two goals on the season.

Vancouver were unable to threaten until the 42nd minute, when Cristian Dajome powered down the right side and uncorked a low cross that Ilie managed to stab away. A shot nearly fell to Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini on the rebound, but Sporting extinguished the danger to take their two-goal cushion into halftime.

The Whitecaps entered the weekend with a formidable 0.8 goals against average but had no answer for Sporting’s razor-sharp attack. Vermes’ side went close to manufacturing their third goal in the 55th minute as Kinda’s perfectly weighted service was met with venom by Zusi and forced Crepeau into a reflex save.

Against the run of play, Vancouver spurned a major opportunity to pull a goal back early in the second half when Dajome intercepted a pass and lifted a shot over the bar from eight yards out.

Sporting were desperately unlucky not to score during a chaotic sequence in the 56th minute. Salloi and Shelton both saw their close-range efforts repelled off the line amidst a wild goalmouth scramble, but Pulido would grab the elusive third goal with a sublime display of skill two minutes shy of the hour mark. The Mexican international settled a clever pass from Kinda, cut centrally onto his left foot and unleashed a brilliant strike that nestled inside the near post for his 10th career Sporting goal in all competitions.

With three points firmly sealed, Sporting broke forward once more in the 81st minute as Pulido received a square pass from the lively Luis Martins and laid the ball off to Gianluca Busio, who cannoned a 25-yard blast over the crossbar.