Whenever Children’s Mercy Park runs out of goal celebration fireworks, you know it’s been a good night for Sporting Kansas City.
Such was the case on Wednesday when Manager Peter Vermes’ side (13-5-7, 46 points) thrashed Minnesota United FC (8-8-7, 31 points) by a 4-0 scoreline to jump atop the Western Conference standings.
Khiry Shelton landed the first punch in the 14th minute and wingers Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell struck near halftime before Cam Duke rounded out the scoring seven minutes into the second half. The hapless Loons failed to put a single shot on target and saw their regular season record at Children’s Mercy Park drop to 0-6-0 with one goal scored and 15 conceded.
Needless to say, this gem of a performance—and the golden statistical nuggets that came with it—was tailor-made for Beyond the Box Score presented by Compass Minerals. We unpack it all, one nugget at a time, in the space below.
On the heels of a 2-0 home win over Chicago Fire FC last Saturday, Sporting hit an even higher gear on Wednesday by hammering four unanswered goals past the Loons. Vermes’ side leads MLS with nine victories by two or more goals this season, three more than any other team. The Colorado Rapids, Nashville SC and New York City FC all have six multi-goal wins, while D.C. United and Seattle Sounders FC have five.
Simply put, no team has secured more dominant wins in 2021 than Sporting.
TWICE IS NICE
If Sporting manages to score twice in a match—easier said than done, of course—you might as well chalk them up as victors. The team has bagged two or more goals in each of its 13 wins this season and owns a perfect 13-0-0 record when scoring twice in 2021. On the flipside, Sporting are winless this year (0-5-7) when held to a goal or less.
A defining characteristic of the 2021 campaign has seen Sporting fall behind before coming back to rescue points—particularly in the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park. The team leads MLS with 19 points from trailing positions, boasting a remarkable 5-3-4 record when falling behind 1-0.
The last two games, however, have served as a stark contrast. In defeats of Chicago and Minnesota, Sporting have left their opponents in the dust early and never looked back. In fact, this week marked the first time that Sporting have scored multiple first-half goals in back-to-back home matches since September 2017.
Something special unfolded on Wednesday that hasn’t happened since 2013: all three starting forwards in Vermes’ 4-3-3 formation scored for Sporting in the same MLS match. Shelton’s header, Salloi’s sumptuous finish and Russell’s penalty kick gave the hosts a 3-0 lead at intermission and punctuated an emphatic—and historic—salvo from the club’s attacking triumvirate.
While Shelton may not be the most prolific of forwards in the context of goals and assists, his ability to help Sporting win is undeniable. Kansas City is 16-4-6 in the 26 regular season matches that Shelton has started at center forward during his Sporting career, which consists of separate stints in 2018 and 2020 onward. In his 62 regular season appearances for the club, regardless of position, Sporting are 36-13-13 with a 69% winning percentage.
The 2021 campaign has belonged to Daniel Salloi. The MLS All-Star winger ranks third in the Golden Boot race with 13 goals and is tied for the league lead with 19 combined goals and assists. Sporting are 8-0-3 when Salloi scores this year and 19-2-5 in regular season matches he has scored since 2017.
RUSSELL REACHES SEVENTH HEAVEN
In a game that saw several Sporting players stand out, Russell was the man of the match and an obvious inclusion on the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi. In addition to scoring on the stroke of intermission—his third straight home match with a goal—he tallied two assists for his first multi-assist game since Sporting’s 2-0 home win on Aug. 25, 2018 against—you guessed it—Minnesota United FC.
With his scintillating performance on Wednesday, Russell moved to seventh place all-time on Sporting’s regular season goal and assist charts. His 31 goals are tied for seventh with Benny Feilhaber and Mo Johnston, while his 30 assists sit alone in seventh place.
Looking through a broader lens, Russell has staked his name as one of the most prolific attackers in MLS since arriving in Kansas City in 2018. Over the last four years, he is one of just two MLS players—joining LAFC superstar Carlos Vela—with 30 goals and 30 assists in the regular season.
In his first year as the club’s captain, Russell has six goals and six assists this season—one of six MLS players with six and six in 2021 alongside Salloi, Valentin Castellanos of NYCFC, Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC, Nani of Orlando City SC and Albert Rusnak of Real Salt Lake.
Sporting lead the Western Conference and rank second in MLS with 43 goals this season. As a perennial title contender known for its stingy defense, Sporting has in fact been one of the most consistent attacking sides in the league since 2018. Counting 2021, the club has placed in the top five in goals per match in three of the last four seasons.
PV IN THE MAJORITY
With Wednesday’s result in the bag, Sporting have now won 335 regular season matches in club history. Vermes has coached the team in 168 of them, posting a 168-126-100 record. Do the math, and he accounts for over half of Kansas City’s regular season wins dating back to 1996.
TOP TWO BATTLE ON SEPT. 26
With consecutive shutout home wins under their belt, Sporting is off this weekend and will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday, Sept. 26, for a monumental showdown with second-place Seattle (13-4-6, 45 points) at 6 p.m. CT. Tickets for the marquee matchup are available at SeatGeek.com as a pair of MLS Cup contenders lock horns on FS1 and FOX Deportes.