"Beyond The Box Score" is a weekly series presented by Compass Minerals that takes a statistical dive into every Sporting match, bringing to light the intriguing numbers and factoids that don't appear in the typical box score. To visit the series archive, click here.



The task at hand felt like a formidable one.


Opening the season at a New York Red Bulls side that has enjoyed more home success than any other team in Major League Soccer over the last decade, Sporting Kansas City ventured east without the services of three key veterans—injured goalkeeper Tim Melia, defender Graham Zusi and midfielder Ilie Sanchez—while star forwards Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell were only available off the bench after recently sustaining preseason injuries of their own.


Furthermore, Manager Peter Vermes had assembled a historically youthful group for this highly anticipated curtain raiser in Harrison, New Jersey, as a club-record nine Homegrown Players—all under the age of 25—made the matchday squad.


And to complicate matters, the Red Bulls would draw first blood three minutes into the second half on Saturday night.


Too much to overcome? Hardly.


Sporting Kansas City staged an impressive rally on the road as midfielder Gadi Kinda buried a 59th-minute penalty kick and Daniel Salloi notched the game-winner 62 seconds later, giving Vermes' men a gutsy 2-1 victory to open the 2021 campaign in style.


In the new season's first edition of Beyond the Box Score, presented by Compass Minerals, it's only appropriate to begin by examining the goals scored in back-to-back minutes by Kinda and Salloi. After falling behind 1-0 early in the second half, the visitors responded emphatically with their best spell of the game and were justly rewarded with a pair of quick-fire strikes that left the Red Bulls stunned.


When Salloi bundled home from close range in the 60th minute off an inch-perfect cross from Khiry Shelton, it marked just the sixth time in Sporting's 26-year history—and the first time since 2007—that the club had scored in consecutive minutes of an MLS match. Not too surprisingly, Sporting has won each of those six games.


SPORTING KC GOALS SCORED IN BACK-TO-BACK MINUTES
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Minutes</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
06/20/1999
vs. New York Red Bulls
29th, 30th
W 6-0
05/27/2000
at Tampa Bay Mutiny
63rd, 64th
W 2-1
08/19/2005
vs. Chicago Fire FC
72nd, 73rd
W 3-0
05/26/2007
at New England Revolution
25th, 26th
W 4-3
09/15/2007
vs. Columbus Crew SC
93rd, 94th
W 3-2
04/17/2021
at New York Red Bulls
59th, 60th
W 2-1

Salloi's breakthrough was particularly sweet, as the 24-year-old forward collected his first goal since September 2019 on the play. In doing so, he is now tied for ninth in club history with seven game-winning goals in the regular season.


"It doesn’t surprise me because he’s been doing so well in preseason," Vermes said of Salloi's performance during a post-game press conference on Saturday night. "He came in, great mentality, fit, he’s worked on both sides of the ball (and) his movement off the ball was tremendous today. I thought he caused a lot of problems for the right back because he was just getting in behind him and he was putting him under pressure. There’s no doubt in my mind that Daniel has all those aspects that go with the game and I’m very happy that he got the goal tonight."


Salloi wasn't the only Homegrown Player deserving of praise after the match. Right back Jaylin Lindsey was involved in both goals, as he won Sporting's penalty kick and set Shelton free down the right sideline for his assist to Salloi. Midfielder-turned-center forward Gianluca Busio took part in 24 duels, tied for the most in MLS through the first two days of the season.


And then there's John Pulskamp. Two days shy of his 20th birthday, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound tank produced two vital saves and became the third-youngest goalkeeper to win an MLS match in league history. Only Bill Hamid and the legendary Tim Howard captured their first MLS wins at a younger age.


It should be noted, however, that Pulskamp is now the youngest keeper to win an MLS match on the road.


YOUNGEST GOALKEEPERS TO WIN AN MLS MATCH

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<strong>Goalkeeper</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Age</strong>
<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
Bill Hamid
DC
19 years, 161 days
05/05/2010
vs. Sporting KC
W 2-1
Tim Howard
RBNY
19 years, 165 days
08/18/1998
vs. Colorado
W 4-1
John Pulskamp
SKC
19 years, 363 days
04/17/2021
at New York
W 2-1
Zac MacMath
PHI
20 years, 41 days
09/17/2011
vs. Columbus
W 1-0
Jesse Gonzalez
DAL
20 years, 96 days
08/29/2015
vs. Real Salt Lake
W 2-0

"I was not nervous at all, really," Pulskamp said of his MLS debut. "The coaches do a fantastic job of preparing me. Through my time with Sporting KC II, I’ve built up that confidence in games and I just viewed this as another game that I’ve played since I was a kid. I felt well-prepared going in."


Pulskamp's contributions helped Sporting to a rare come-from-behind win in Week 1, as Saturday was the third season-opening win for Kansas City in comeback fashion. The first such victory was a 3-2 result against D.C. United in 2003, while the most recent one came in a 3-1 decision at the Philadelphia Union on the first day of Sporting's 2013 MLS Cup-winning campaign.


SPORTING KC COMEBACK WINS IN SEASON OPENERS

<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
<strong>Trailed</strong>
04/12/2003
vs. D.C. United
W 3-2
1-2 in 46th minute
03/02/2013
at Philadelphia Union
W 3-1
0-1 in 17th minute
04/17/2021
at New York Red Bulls
W 2-1
0-1 in 48th minute

What's far less rare and far more common, of course, is Sporting Kansas City emerging victorious in Week 1. No club in MLS history has more season-opening wins than Sporting's 15.


Perhaps just as impressively, Kansas City also leads the league with 10 victories in away openers, including a more-than-respectable 10-12-4 record dating back to the inaugural 1996 campaign.


MOST SEASON-OPENING WINS IN MLS HISTORY

<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Wins</strong>
<strong>Record (W-L-T)</strong>
Sporting Kansas City
15
15-7-4
LA Galaxy
14
14-8-4
FC Dallas
13
13-4-9
Columbus Crew SC
10
10-9-7
New York Red Bulls
10
10-10-6

MOST ROAD-OPENING WINS IN MLS HISTORY

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<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Wins</strong>
<strong>Record (W-L-T)</strong>
Sporting Kansas City
10
10-12-4
Columbus Crew SC
9
9-12-4
LA Galaxy
8
8-9-9
New York Red Bulls
7
7-10-8
San Jose Earthquakes
7
7-15-2

If Sporting had any reason for concern entering the game—as mentioned above, they probably did—the Red Bulls had every reason to hope. Not only did New York boast a league-leading 16 wins in home openers, but they had won more regular season matches on home soil than any other MLS team over the last decade, posting a 102-28-33 record at Red Bull Arena. Throw in the fact that head coach Gerhard Struber's side had a clean bill of health, and it would have been reasonable to bet on the hosts taking all three points.


Not so fast. For the fourth time since 2012, New York sustained a home defeat at the hands of Vermes and Sporting. Over the last nine regular seasons, Sporting's four regular season road wins over New York at Red Bull Arena—objectively one of the toughest places to play in MLS—are the most of any team.


MOST WINS AT NEW YORK RED BULLS SINCE 2012
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Wins</strong>
<strong>Record (W-L-T)</strong>
Sporting Kansas City
4
4-2-1
Columbus Crew SC
3
3-5-1
Chicago Fire FC
3
3-6-0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2
2-1-1
Orlando City SC
2
2-4-1
Philadelphia Union
2
2-6-3

"The resiliency in the group to come back and get two goals like they did and not fold (was) excellent," Vermes said. "For the first game, to come back from something like that is just an excellent mentality."


Vermes will also be encouraged by the early returns of his new center back pairing. Andreu Fontas and debutant Nicolas Isimat-Mirin—who alongside French compatriot Remi Walter notched his first MLS appearance—anchored a defensive effort that limited New York to three shots on target. Fontas and Isimat also combined for 19 clearances, the most by a Sporting center back duo in an MLS match over the last six seasons.


MOST COMBINED CLEARANCES BY TWO CENTER BACKS
(SKC MLS REGULAR SEASON MATCHES SINCE 2016)

<strong>Clearances</strong>
<strong>Center Backs</strong>
<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
19
Andreu Fontas 11<br> Nicolas Isimat-Mirin 8
04/17/2021
at New York Red Bulls
W 2-1
17
Winston Reid 9<br> Roberto Puncec 8
10/03/2020
at Houston Dynamo
W 2-1
17
Matt Besler 12<br> Botond Barath 5
05/18/2019
vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
T 1-1
17
Ike Opara 11<br> Matt Besler 6
03/10/2018
at Chicago Fire FC
W 4-3
17
Nuno Coelho 9<br> Ike Opara 8
04/09/2016
at New York Red Bulls
W 2-0

With a momentous triumph under their belts, Sporting will now return to Children’s Mercy Park for the club’s marquee home opener on Friday against Orlando City SC at 6:30 p.m. CT. The sold-out encounter will be shown nationally on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app.


History paints a balanced picture of Friday's long-awaited clash. Orlando claimed a 2-1 win at Children's Mercy Park last September, but spoiling Kansas City's first home game has been brutally difficult for teams over the last 25 years. Sporting owns a 15-3-7 all-time record in home openers and has the chance to move level with the Red Bulls for the most home-opening victories in MLS next week.


MOST HOME-OPENING WINS IN MLS HISTORY

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<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Wins</strong>
<strong>Record (W-L-T)</strong>
New York Red Bulls
16
16-5-5
Sporting Kansas City
15
15-3-7
Colorado Rapids
15
15-3-7
LA Galaxy
15
15-8-2
FC Dallas
14
14-4-8
New England Revolution
14
14-6-5
Columbus Crew SC
13
13-3-10

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