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.
In a compelling midweek matchup that featured two of the best teams in Major League Soccer's Western Conference, Sporting Kansas City made an emphatic statement of intent.
Even without two of the club's best players in the starting XI, Manager Peter Vermes' men are perfectly capable of exerting their dominance in the friendly confines of Children's Mercy Park.
With striker Alan Pulido rested amidst a busy run of matches and midfielder Gadi Kinda sidelined with a minor injury, Sporting strolled to a convincing 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday to strengthen their hold of second place in the West and stay within four points of Seattle Sounders FC in the Supporters' Shield table.
The stars of the show skewed toward the younger end of the spectrum in what became a historic night for the Sporting Kansas City Academy and its heralded crop of MLS players.
The 24-year-old winger was at his unplayable best on Wednesday evening, dynamic in possession and active off the ball while constantly finding gaps in the Colorado defense. In a man of the match performance, Salloi bagged a first-half brace with goals in the 14th and 38th minutes before setting up Sporting's third in the 64th.
Simply put, the Hungary-born forward has been one of the most effective attacking players in MLS this season. After all, the numbers speak for themselves.
- Salloi ranks third in MLS with six goals, behind only Raul Ruidiaz and Chicharito who have eight apiece.
- Salloi is tied for second in MLS with nine combined goals (six) and assists (three), behind only Carles Gil who has one goal and 10 assists.
- Salloi leads MLS this season with 66 touches in the opponent's box, an indication of his ability to find and exploit dangerous spaces as Sporting looks to break down the opponent.
"Obviously playing with confidence is the key for every player," Salloi said after the match. "When everything is flowing – goals are coming and assists – it’s growing more and more. You just want to keep going. I wish I would have gotten the hat trick today but I’m obviously very happy for the two goals and the win."
Salloi, of course, wasn't the only Sporting KC product to shine under the bright lights in the 82nd all-time meeting between Kansas City and Colorado.
In his second start of the season, midfielder Felipe Hernandez enjoyed his best MLS match as a professional by assisting Salloi's second strike near halftime and opening his MLS scoring account with a brilliant finish near the hour mark. In defense, right back Jaylin Lindsey picked up an assist on Salloi's early opener. Elsewhere, Gianluca Busio logged 90 minutes in midfield while Cam Duke and Kaveh Rad helped clinch the result with second-half substitute appearances.
By the end of the evening, the Academy connection beamed more resoundingly than ever.
- For the final 23 minutes on Wednesday, Sporting had six Academy products in a match for the first time in club history.
- Academy products accounted for six combined goals and assists, the most in a match in club history. Homegrowns scored and assisted on all three Sporting goals.
- Academy products have scored 11 of Sporting's 20 goals and six of the team's 16 assists this season.
Just under a third of the way through the 2021 campaign, Sporting have plenty on which they can hang their hats. Wednesday's comprehensive victory was another step in the right direction for a team that appears capable of contending for silverware in the months to come. Consider the following:
- With a 6-3-2 record, Sporting are on pace for 62 points in the regular season. That would be the second-most in team history behind a 2012 campaign that yielded 63 points.
- Sporting's 20 goals and 23.4 expected goals are the most in MLS. Their expected goal total is almost six more than any other team.
- Sporting has now scored in a club-record 21 straight regular season home matches dating back to Aug. 10, 2019.
- Sporting has scored three goals in four of their last six matches, all of which have resulted in victory.
"We found the solutions in the game," Vermes said afterward. "I thought we were really good defensively but I also think part of that is (because) we were so good with the ball. We kept our mindset focused and concentrated on not giving up the ball in dangerous areas. We showed a lot of composure today and we broke out of some really high pressure. Our movement of the ball, our play, our movement off the ball – it created again some high quality chances."
With a well-deserved triumph in the rearview mirror, Sporting will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday when star-studded LAFC visits Children’s Mercy Park for a mouthwatering encounter that will air live nationally on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. CT. A limited number of tickets for the contest, including standing-room only tickets, are available at SeatGeek.com.