"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.



A noticeable trend has emerged during the early stages of Sporting Kansas City's 2021 MLS campaign: if Manager Peter Vermes' side falls behind, count them out at your own peril.


After falling behind early on Saturday night, Sporting (4-2-1, 13 points) hit three consecutive goals past the San Jose Earthquakes (3-4-0, 9 points) to claim a riveting 3-1 victory at PayPal Park and jump to second place in the Western Conference table.


With just seven matches played this year, Sporting have already collected nine points from losing positions. That eclipses the team's total from the 2019 and 2020 regular seasons and stands as the most in Major League Soccer by a wide margin. Sporting has three wins from losing positions in 2021; no other team has more than one.


POINTS GAINED FROM LOSING POSITION
(2021 MLS REGULAR SEASON THROUGH MAY 22)

<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Points</strong>
<strong>Wins</strong>
<strong>Ties</strong>
Sporting Kansas City
9
3
0
Inter Miami CF
4
1
1
New England Revolution
4
1
1
Real Salt Lake
4
1
1
<em>Seven teams</em>
3
1
0

For added context, Saturday was Sporting's third comeback win in a five-week span. Remarkably enough, that has happened just one other time in club history—all the way back in 1996 when the Kansas City Wiz notched three comeback victories from May to June during the inaugural MLS season.


"We didn’t panic when they scored; we just got right back to business right away," said Vermes, who lavished praise on all 11 starters after the match. "When we found our goal, it was almost like after that we took another step up... It’s a big result for us. These are massive points for us on the road."


As for the individuals who grabbed headlines in Saturday's breathless encounter, defender Jaylin Lindsey scored his first professional goal and forwards Alan Pulido and Daniel Salloi struck for the second straight game.


More on Salloi and Lindsey in a moment, but we must begin with Sporting's club-record signing who continues to show the value of his price tag. Pulido, whose eight shots on Saturday were the second-most by a single player in an MLS match this year, now has 16 combined goals (10) and assists (6) in 16 regular season starts since arriving in Kansas City at the start of 2020.


With a sublime second-half goal and an early assist to Lindsey against San Jose, Pulido leads MLS with 0.99 goals and primary assists per 90 minutes since 2020 (regular season and playoffs). He has also become the third-fastest Kansas City player to bag 10 regular season goals, only behind club legend Preki and heralded folk hero Miklos Molnar.


MOST GOALS AND PRIMARY ASSISTS PER 90 MINUTES
(REG. SEASON + PLAYOFFS SINCE 2020, MIN 750 MINUTES)

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<strong>#</strong>
<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>G+A per 90</strong>
<strong>G</strong>
<strong>A</strong>
<strong>MIN</strong>
1
Alan Pulido
Sporting KC
0.99
10
6
1458
2
Raul Ruidiaz
Seattle
0.89
19
4
2327
3
Kevin Molino
Minnesota
0.88
13
2
1532
4
Diego Rossi
LAFC
0.87
17
3
2058
5
Emanuel Reynoso
Minnesota
0.86
3
12
1571

QUICKEST SPORTING KC PLAYERS TO 10 CAREER GOALS
(REGULAR SEASON, ALL-TIME)

<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Matches</strong>
<strong>Season(s)</strong>
Preki
15
1996
Miklos Molnar
15
2000
Alan Pulido
19
2020-2021

"Pulido’s goal was a different level; that second goal was just unreal," Vermes said before later continuing, "I’d love to be able to take a bunch of credit, but that guy is an incredible, instinctive player. It’s a pleasure to coach him and, more importantly, to watch him play because he does things the right way in the game."


Pulido, of course, isn't the only in-form attacker at Vermes' disposal. Salloi, who has shown eye-catching improvement this year after navigating tough seasons in 2019 and 2020, delivered one of the best performances of his Sporting career. On Saturday, the Sporting KC Academy product became only the second MLS player over the last two seasons with a goal, a primary assist, four chances created and 85% passing accuracy.


Indeed, Pulido and Salloi have blossomed into one of the most productive attacking duos in MLS this season. They are one of just three sets of teammates with three or more goals in 2021, joining Raul Ruidiaz and Brad Smith of Seattle and Jesus Medina and Valentin Castellanos of NYCFC. They are also two of 10 MLS players with five combined goals and assists this year, as detailed in the table below.


Moreover, Pulido and Salloi have become the first Sporting tandem to score in back-to-back matches together since Pulido and Gadi Kinda did the deed in the first two games of 2020.


MLS PLAYERS WITH 5 COMBINED GOALS + ASSISTS IN 2021

<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>G+A</strong>
<strong>G</strong>
<strong>A</strong>
Javier Hernandez
LA Galaxy
8
7
1
Raul Ruidiaz
Seattle Sounders FC
6
5
1
Valentin Castellanos
New York City FC
6
4
2
Rubio Rubin
Real Salt Lake
6
4
2
Alan Pulido
Sporting Kansas City
5
4
1
Gonzalo Higuain
Inter Miami CF
5
4
1
Daniel Salloi
Sporting Kansas City
5
3
2
Damir Kreilach
Real Salt Lake
5
2
3
Cade Cowell
San Jose Earthquakes
5
2
3
Carles Gil
New England Revolution
5
1
4

"I think we’re getting more and more comfortable as the season keeps going so hopefully it’s going to be a good partnership not just with me, (but) with the rest of the team," Salloi said of his combination with Pulido. "Alan understands your movements and he shows for you. And it’s not just that. He has the ability to actually play the ball wherever you want it."


Salloi was one of two Homegrown Players to find the back of the net on Saturday night. The other, of course, was Lindsey, a 21-year-old right back who recorded his first professional goal in the 15th minute. Summoned to replace the injured Graham Zusi, Lindsey delivered in a major way by becoming the second Sporting defender since the dawn of the Opta era in 2010 with a goal, five tackles and 10 duels in a regular season match.


"Whenever a defender gets in the attacking third, you’re out of your comfort zone a little bit," Lindsey said. "We know that San Jose likes to play in a man-to-man formation. I saw this gap in the defense that I could exploit... Honestly, when I scored, I didn’t know what to do. I’m glad that I got a goal and that we got the three points."


With Salloi and Lindsey on the scoresheet, it marked the third time ever that two Sporting Homegrown Players have struck in a regular season match. All three occasions have resulted in decisive wins for Sporting.


TWO SPORTING KC HOMEGROWN SCORERS IN A MATCH
(REGULAR SEASON, ALL-TIME)

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<strong>Players</strong>
<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
Wan Kuzain + Daniel Salloi
06/03/2018
vs. Minnesota
W 4-1
Gianluca Busio + Daniel Salloi
10/17/2017
at Vancouver
W 4-1
Jaylin Lindsey Daniel Salloi
05/22/2021
at San Jose
W 3-1

Adding gloss to Sporting's impressive triumph was the fact that two of their goals—Pulido's 60th-minute firecracker and Salloi's magisterial curler in the 75th minute—were of the highest quality. Both strikes came from outside of the box, marking the seventh time during the Opta era that Sporting has scored from that distance twice in a regular season match. Interestingly enough, Vermes' men had not scored from outside of the box this season until Saturday.


TWO SPORTING KC GOALS FROM OUTSIDE THE BOX
(REGULAR SEASON, ALL-TIME)

<strong>Goals<br> Out Box</strong>
<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
3
06/12/2011
at Dallas
W 4-1
2
08/21/2010
vs. New England
W 4-1
2
08/17/2011
vs. Portland
W 3-1
2
04/25/2015
at Houston
T 4-4
2
04/29/2017
vs. Real Salt Lake
W 3-0
2
03/17/2018
vs. San Jose
W 3-2
2
05/22/2021
at San Jose
W 3-1

"There are some situations that occur in a game where you have players that make plays," Vermes said. "They turn a situation into an unbelievable goal like Pulido’s or Daniel’s. You can work hard and you can compete and you can do all of those things, but at the end you’ve got to be able to hit that ball that way in that moment with people and pressure around you and lack of space or time. It was a great mentality by the group."


Lastly, we would be remiss not to examine Sporting's road form over the last two years. Since the start of 2020, Sporting's plus-five road goal differential and seven away wins are the most in the regular season.


BEST ROAD GOAL DIFFERENCE SINCE START OF 2020
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>GD</strong>
<strong>GF</strong>
<strong>GA</strong>
<strong>Road record</strong>
Sporting Kansas City
+5
20
15
7-4-2
Portland Timbers
+5
24
19
5-4-3
Seattle Sounders FC
+4
17
13
5-3-4
Philadelphia Union
+4
18
14
4-4-5
Colorado Rapids
+2
17
15
6-4-2
Orlando City SC
+2
14
12
4-3-5

Winners of two straight games, Sporting will return home next Saturday to host rivals Houston Dynamo FC (3-2-2, 11 points) in the first full-capacity match at Children’s Mercy Park since March 7, 2020 when the club welcomed—you guessed it—the Dynamo. Tickets for the highly anticipated showdown are available now at SeatGeek.com.


Asked to give a final assessment of his team after the match, Vermes indicated that Sporting still has significant room for growth, which could be an ominous sign for their Western Conference rivals.


"We’re still trying to get guys fit. So are we where we want to be? Absolutely not," Vermes said. "We still have many games left. As much as two in a row is a good thing, I think this was an important game for us to win on the road."

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