Sporting Kansas City's 2022 season is officially under way. The club kicked off a campaign of 34 regular season matches in 32 weeks on Sunday with a 3-1 loss against a formidable Atlanta United FC side inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
If it feels like the 2021 season just ended, well it wasn't all that long ago. In fact, this offseason will go down as the shortest in club history between MLS matches and the second shortest between competitive matches.
Sporting Kansas City All-Time Shortest Offseasons
(number of days between competitive matches)
84 Days: 11/29/18 (MLS) to 2/21/19 (CCL)
91 Days: 11/28/21 (MLS) to 2/27/22 (MLS)
91 Days: 12/7/13 (MLS) to 3/8/14 (MLS)
Sunday marked the earliest date on the calendar in which Sporting has ever played a regular season match in the team's 27 seasons, as Major League Soccer has architected a schedule that will allow the regular season and postseason to conclude prior to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November.
Sporting Kansas City All-Time Matches in February
2/21/19: 3-0 W vs Toluca (CCL)
2/27/22: 3-1 L at Atlanta (MLS)
2/28/19: 2-0 W at Toluca (CCL)
2/29/20: 3-1 W at Vancouver (MLS)
Playing inside the climate-controlled Mercedes-Benz Stadium eliminated any worries over winter weather conditions, however the confines were far from comfortable for Sporting as the club played in front of the largest crowd ever for a match involving SKC.
More than 67,000 fans filled the billion-dollar venue, more than doubling the next highest attendance for MLS Week 1, including a sizable contingent of traveling Sporting supporters as part of the Kansas City Cauldron's #roaddron.
Sporting KC All-Time Largest Away Crowds
67,523: 2/27/22 (3-1 L at Atlanta)
60,142: 7/4/03 (3-2 L at Colorado)
53,655: 7/4/98 (3-0 L at Los Angeles)
While the game itself didn't unfold in the fashion that Sporting fans had hoped, Sporting KC winger Daniel Salloi picked up right where he left off in 2021 when he was named an MLS All-Star and MLS MVP finalist.
The 25-year-old Hungarian international struck a volley past Atlanta United FC goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 85th minute on a corner taken by fellow Sporting KC Academy product Felipe Hernandez that was flicked on at the near post by Andreu Fontas.
Salloi's 17 non-penalty goals are tied for the most in MLS since the start of 2021, along with LA Galaxy forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, and Salloi - who also scored in Sporting's 2-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2018 - became just the fourth visiting player to score in each of his first two regular season appearances at the venue:
- Bradley Wright-Phillips, NY (2018-2019)
- Daniel Royer, NY (2018-2019)
- Sebastian Giovinco, TOR (2017-2019)
- Daniel Salloi, SKC (2018-2022)
In addition, Salloi is the eighth player in club history to score in back-to-back MLS season openers and only the third to do so in which both openers came away from home along with C.J. Sapong and Gadi Kinda:
- Mo Johnston 1997-1998
- Chris Brown 2002-2003
- Jack Jewsbury 2005-2006
- Eddie Johnson 2006-2007
- Davy Arnaud 2009-2010
- C.J. Sapong 2011-2012
- Gadi Kinda 2020-2021
- Daniel Salloi 2021-2022
Although Sporting scored six goals from corners in 2021, the club had the second fewest corners into the box deemed as "successful" by Opta with just 35 despite taking the second most corners in MLS last year with 207.
Set pieces remained a point of emphasis during preseason preparations in Arizona and, on Sunday, not only did Sporting score the team's lone goal directly from a corner but two of the team's biggest scoring opportunities in the first half came from dead balls delivered by Remi Walter. Fontas nearly opened the scoring in the 12th minute on a free kick from the Frenchman and Sporting came close to equalizing in first half stoppage time on a corner that connected with Roger Espinoza and led to a flurry of chances.
Espinoza was starting his 11th regular season opener for the club, as was longtime teammate Graham Zusi who surpassed 30,000 minutes played in all competition for Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. He's only the second player to hit that milestone, along with Matt Besler, and Zusi also became the first player in league history to play 14 seasons in MLS all with one club - breaking a record first set by C.J. Brown (13 seasons with Chicago from 1998-2010) and now shared by Espinoza (13 seasons with KC from 2008-2012 and 2015-2022).
The duo helped Sporting control the tempo against Atlanta in a way that very few clubs have managed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United FC led the league in possession in 2021, averaging 57.45% according to Opta, however it was Sporting that held the upper hand in possession on Sunday with 56.1% - the third highest mark for an opponent at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in an MLS regular season match.
Atlanta United FC: Least Amount of Possession All-Time
(regular season matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
41.0% vs LAFC on 4/7/18
43.7% vs SKC on 5/9/18
43.9% vs SKC on 2/27/22
43.9% vs CIN on 11/1/20