Sporting Kansas City missed an opportunity to clinch a top-two finish in the Western Conference and a berth in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League following a frustrating 2-1 loss at Minnesota United FC on Sunday afternoon at Allianz Field.
Khiry Shelton fired Sporting ahead inside eight minutes on a wonderfully orchestrated set piece involving Gadi Kinda and Johnny Russell, but Minnesota responded by striking twice before halftime through Franco Fragapane and Emanuel Reynoso.
Sunday's result leaves Sporting level on points at the top of the West with both Seattle Sounders FC and the Colorado Rapids. The good news is that Manager Peter Vermes' side holds the tiebreaker over both teams heading into the final week of the regular season: Sporting edges Seattle by virtue of greater goal differential—SKC is +21 and the Sounders are at +20—and sits above Colorado on the wins tiebreaker.
It all shapes up for an incredibly compelling final week, which will see Sporting visit Austin FC on Wednesday before hosting Real Salt Lake in a Decision Day showdown on Sunday.
But before looking too far ahead, it's worth examining the historic scoring streak that Russell has pieced together over the last two months.
Although his eight-game goal scoring streak ended on Sunday, the Sporting captain tabbed an assist to mark his ninth straight match with a goal or an assist. That is the longest run in club regular season history and tied for the 10th-longest in MLS all time.
MOST CONSECUTIVE MATCHES WITH A GOAL OR ASSIST
(MLS REGULAR SEASON, ALL-TIME)
- 15 | Josef Martinez | ATL | 05/24/19 to 09/18/19
- 12 | Sebastian Giovinco | TOR | 07/04/18 to 09/29/18
- 11 | Carlos Vela | LAFC | 08/11/19 to 03/08/20
- 11 | Roy Lassiter | DC | 04/25/98 to 06/13/98
- 11 | Mauricio Cienfuegos | LA | 09/07/97 to 05/17/98
- 11 | Ronald Cerritos | SJ | 06/15/97 to 08/24/97
- 10 | Clint Dempsey | SEA | 10/19/14 to 05/16/15
- 10 | Cobi Jones | LA | 09/28/97 to 07/04/98
- 10 | Raul Diaz Arce | COL | 04/12/97 to 07/19/97
- 9 | Johnny Russell | SKC | 09/11/21 to 10/31/21
- 9 | Cristian Pavon | LA | 08/25/19 to 02/29/20
- 9 | Josef Martinez | ATL | 06/30/18 to 08/24/18
- 9 | Diego Valeri | POR | 07/29/17 to 09/24/17
- 9 | Fredy Montero | VAN | 06/05/10 to 08/08/10
- 9 | Amado Guevara | TOR | 06/23/04 to 08/08/04
Russell, of course, has been a premier attacking player since arriving in Kansas City ahead of the 2018 campaign. His 70 combined goals and assists over the last four regular seasons are third-most in MLS behind only Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez.
MOST COMBINED GOALS AND ASSISTS SINCE 2018
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)
- 91 | Carlos Vela | 57 goals, 34 assists
- 80 | Josef Martinez | 69 goals, 11 assists
- 70 | Johnny Russell | 39 goals, 31 assists
- 69 | Zlatan Ibrahimovic | 52 goals, 17 assists
- 69 | Diego Rossi | 48 goals, 21 assists
Shelton, meanwhile, continued his habit of putting Minnesota to the sword. The forward has bagged exactly one quarter of his 16 career regular season goals against the Loons, two more than any other opponent since he was drafted into the league in 2015.
KHIRY SHELTON: CAREER GOALS SCORED BY OPPONENT
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)
- 4 | Minnesota United FC
- 2 | Chicago Fire FC
- 2 | FC Dallas
- 2 | Houston Dynamo FC
- 1 | six opponents
With a forgettable game in the rearview mirror, Sporting will look to maintain their perfect 7-0-0 record in matches immediately following losses this season when they hit the road Wednesday for an 8 p.m. CT kickoff versus Austin FC. The club's inaugural game at Q2 Stadium is slated for 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City and Bally Sports Midwest.