"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City. To visit the series archive, click here.
1. Instant Classic
Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1, 7 points) staged a stunning fightback on Sunday night at electric Children’s Mercy Park, erasing a late deficit to secure a 2-1 victory in a pulsating battle against upstart expansion club Austin FC (2-2-0, 6 points).
After Jon Gallagher vaulted Austin into an early lead, Sporting seized attacking initiative and were rewarded for their dominance with an 82nd-minute equalizer from Ilie Sanchez and a dramatic 90-minute winner off the head of substitute Gadi Kinda. The last-gasp comeback marked the first time Sporting had won an MLS match when trailing past the 80th minute since June 2018 and lifts Manager Peter Vermes’ side into a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference table.
2. Zusi Sets Record
Sunday’s contest served as a Sporting reunion for Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff, assistant Davy Arnaud and starting center back Matt Besler, all of whom starred for Kansas City as players during their heralded MLS careers. The visitors were facing a Sporting side that made four lineup changes from last weekend’s road loss to Real Salt Lake, with defenders Roberto Puncec and Graham Zusi joining the backline, Roger Espinoza bolstering the midfield and Daniel Salloi slotting into the attack.
Zusi’s inclusion in the starting XI—his first MLS match since suffering a long-term foot injury against Chicago Fire FC on Oct, 7, 2020—notably vaulted him past longtime teammate Besler and into sole possession of first place in Sporting history with 295 regular season appearances for the club.
"This club means everything to me." #OneSportingWay— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 10, 2021
3. Russell Runs Riot
Captain Johnny Russell delivered a vintage performance in his 100th competitive appearance for Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night. The Scottish winger may not have found the back of the net against Austin FC, but Russell was at the heart of Sporting's ceaseless attack in a game that the hosts controlled throughout.
In addition to assisting Ilie Sanchez's game-tying goal in the 82nd minute, Russell set a Sporting record during the Opta era with eight chances created. No other player has created more chances in a game this season. MLSsoccer.com took notice of Russell's comprehensive display this afternoon, naming him to the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi.
4. Two on Tap
On the heels of Sunday's big win, Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1, 7 points) will continue their 2021 campaign with two matches this week against Western Conference opposition.
Manager Peter Vermes' side will travel south to face rivals Houston Dynamo FC (1-1-2, 5 points) in a Wednesday night showdown at BBVA Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app. The contest will also air live locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM, with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following the match on 810 WHB.
Sporting will then return to Children's Mercy Park on Sunday to host Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2-1-1, 7 points) at 1 p.m. CT. A limited number of tickets for the afternoon matchup are available at SeatGeek.com while supplies last. Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app will provide three hours of live programming starting at 12:30 p.m. CT and listeners can catch the action live on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
5. Sporting Signs Pierre
Sporting Kansas City announced last week that the club has signed 18-year-old outside back Kayden Pierre as a Homegrown Player. Pierre has signed a four-year MLS contract through 2024 with an option for 2025, becoming the 18th Homegrown Player to emerge from the Sporting Kansas City Academy. With the acquisition of Pierre, Sporting leads Major League Soccer with 12 academy products on its current roster.
Born and raised in Rochester Hills, Michigan, Pierre joined the Sporting KC Academy in 2018 from Vardar SC in his native state. He went on to represent Sporting at the U-15, U-17 and U-19 levels, making upwards of 60 academy appearances and guiding the U-17s to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in 2019. While in Kansas City, Pierre has lived with a host family through a program currently supported by the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative.
6. Charlie Hustle Store
Sporting Kansas City has teamed up with local clothing company Charlie Hustle to launch a new, limited-edition Sporting Club Collection that debuted Sunday at Children's Mercy Park. The new Sporting Club Collection features a variety of vintage T-shirts in the newest merchandise collaboration between SportingStyle and Charlie Hustle.
Throughout the season, fans will have an opportunity to shop at the new Charlie Hustle Pop-Up Store located on the south side of the Mazuma Plaza at Children's Mercy Park. The Charlie Hustle Pop-Up Store will feature items from the Sporting Club Collection as well as a selection of classic Charlie Hustle merchandise.
GET READY! We’ve teamed up with @CharlieHustleCo to create a collection of tees for matchday. 💙⚽ The 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐂𝐥𝐮𝐛 𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 launches Sunday and will be sold from both our new Charlie Hustle Store at @cmpark and their flagship location. pic.twitter.com/GzwndAzAyg— SportingStyle (@SportingStyle) May 7, 2021
7. Friday Blood Drive
Sporting Kansas City, The Victory Project and Community Blood Center will continue their longstanding partnership this week when Children’s Mercy Park hosts a two-day blood drive on Thursday and Friday. The blood drive will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day inside the Budweiser Brew House, located at the northeast corner of Children’s Mercy Park off the intersection of Village West Parkway and France Family Drive in Kansas City, Kansas.
Appointments for the blood drive are strongly encouraged and walk-ins will only be accepted as capacity safely allows. Make an appointment by accessing the links above or by calling 1-877-468-6844.
8. SKC II in Action
Sporting Kansas City II (0-1-1, 1 point) will look to build off a 1-1 home draw against OKC Energy FC when they play host to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (0-1-0, 0 points) on Friday night. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and stream live on ESPN Plus. Sporting KC Academy product Tyler Freeman bagged SKC II's first goal of the season in last Friday's stalemate with Energy FC, finishing off a cross from Enoch Mushagalusa in the late stages.