Just when Major League Soccer pundits began dismissing Daniel Salloi as a legitimate MVP candidate—we’re looking at you, J. Sam Jones—the Sporting Kansas City winger delivered perhaps his greatest performance of an already phenomenal 2021 campaign to date.

Salloi bagged two brilliant goals to pace a comprehensive 3-1 road victory over FC Dallas on Wednesday night at Toyota Stadium. The 25-year-old Hungarian international landed his first punch in the 13th minute, uncorking a magisterial strike from long range, before rifling home at the near post in the 61st minute to give his side an unassailable lead. For good measure, Salloi’s golazos were bookended by a coolly taken penalty kick from captain Johnny Russell, who today re-signed for Sporting through the 2023 season with an option for 2024.

We’ll have more words on Russell in a minute, but this edition of Beyond the Box Score presented by Compass Minerals has to lead with Sporting’s man of the hour. That, of course, would be Salloi, whose 15 non-penalty goals are the most in MLS this year.

Salloi Non PK Goals

Salloi’s irresistible attacking form has translated first and foremost into goals. His 15 strikes are tied for the fourth-most in a single season in club history—a testament to just how consistent the Sporting KC Academy product has been over the course of 2021. But he has also chipped in a half-dozen assists, with his 21 total goal contributions ranking one behind the league lead. Only Ola Kamara of D.C. United and Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC have been involved in more goals this season.

MOST GOAL CONTRIBUTIONS IN MLS THIS SEASON

  • 22 | Ola Kamara | D.C. United | 17 goals, 5 assists
  • 22 | Hany Mukhtar | Nashville SC | 13 goals, 9 assists
  • 21 | Daniel Salloi | Sporting Kansas City | 15 goals, 6 assists
  • 20 | Gustavo Bou | New England Revolution | 13 goals, 7 assists
  • 20 | Valentin Castellanos | New York City FC | 13 goals, 7 assists

MOST GOALS IN AN MLS REGULAR SEASON
(SPORTING KC, ALL-TIME)

  • 22 goals | Dom Dwyer| 2014
  • 18 goals | Preki | 1996
  • 16 goals | Dom Dwyer | 2016
  • 15 goals | Daniel Salloi | 2021
  • 15 goals | Eddie Johnson | 2007

How do Salloi’s 21 combined goals and assists stack up in the context of Kansas City history? Pretty darn good. Only Preki, Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer have amassed greater single-season totals in a Sporting uniform. Preki was a scoring machine from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, while Dwyer and Feilhaber enjoyed historic seasons in 2014 and 2015, respectively. At any rate, Salloi is only the fifth Kansas City player to eclipse 21 goals and assists for the club in an MLS regular season.

MOST GOAL CONTRIBUTIONS IN AN MLS REGULAR SEASON
(SPORTING KC, ALL-TIME)

  • 31 | Preki | 1996 | 18 goals, 13 assists
  • 29 | Preki | 1997 | 12 goals, 17 assists
  • 29 | Preki | 2003 | 12 goals, 17 assists
  • 25 | Benny Feilhaber | 2015 | 10 goals, 15 assists
  • 23 | Preki | 1998 | 10 goals, 13 assists
  • 23 | Dom Dwyer | 2014 | 22 goals, 1 assist
  • 21 | Daniel Salloi | 2021 | 15 goals, 6 assists
  • 21 | Eddie Johnson | 2007 | 15 goals, 6 assists
MVP Frontrunners

What makes Salloi’s story even sweeter is the fact that he has bounced back emphatically after experiencing limited production in 2019 and 2020. After not scoring last season, Salloi’s year-over-year scoring increase of 15 goals is the fifth-biggest jump in MLS history. He can move into the top three of that list if he notches two more goals before the regular season concludes on Nov. 7.

TOP SEASON-OVER-SEASON GOAL SCORING INCREASES
(MLS REGULAR SEASON, ALL-TIME)

  • +26 | Bradley Wright-Phillips from 2013-2014
  • +20 | Carlos Vela from 2018-2019
  • +20 | Dom Dwyer from 2013-2014
  • +17 | Gyasi Zardes from 2017-2018
  • +17 | Camilo Sanvezzo from 2012-2013
  • +16 | Mike Magee from 2012-2013
  • +15 | Daniel Salloi from 2020-2021
  • +15 | Marco Di Vaio from 2012-2013

It’s also worth mentioning that Salloi is now 10th on club’s all-time chart for regular season goals, having scored 30 since breaking into the first team in 2017. His next goal will tie Feilhaber and Mo Johnston for eighth with 31.

Salloi would have earned undisputed man of the match honors on Wednesday, but another Sporting Kansas City winger etched his name into the history books, as well. After Khiry Shelton galloped into the penalty area and was toppled from behind by Bryan Acosta—who received a straight red card for his transgression—Russell stepped to the penalty spot and picked out the right corner for his eighth goal of the year.

In doing so, Sporting’s 31-year-old captain became only the fifth player in Sporting history to score in four consecutive regular season matches. If Russell manages to score again versus Houston on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park, he would join Preki as the only Kansas City players to score in five straight.

LONGEST REGULAR SEASON GOAL SCORING STREAKS
(SPORTING KC, ALL-TIME)

  • 5 matches | Preki | 06/01/96 to 06/20/96
  • 4 matches | Eddie Johnson | 05/26/07 to 07/22/07
  • 4 matches | Dom Dwyer | 05/10/14 to 05/23/14
  • 4 matches | Dom Dwyer | 08/29/14 to 09/26/14
  • 4 matches | Dom Dwyer | 09/09/16 to 10/01/16
  • 4 matches | Felipe Gutierrez | 03/10/18 to 03/31/18
  • 4 matches | Johnny Russell | 09/11/21 to 09/29/21

Looking at Wednesday’s victory through a broader lens, it would be fair to say that Sporting simply carried out business as usual. Indeed, each of Sporting’s last six road wins have come by two or more goals, a remarkable testament to Manager Peter Vermes and the players for their ability to perform well away from home.

Those six multi-goal road win tie the club record for most in a season, tying the mark set by a 2018 Sporting outfit that finished atop the Western Conference standings and advanced within one game of MLS Cup.

Throwing home matches into the mix, Sporting leads MLS with 10 multi-goal victories this season. No other club has more than seven. As for their half-dozen multi-goal wins on the road, no other team has more than three.

MOST MULTI-GOAL WINS IN MLS THIS SEASON

  • 10 wins | Sporting Kansas City | 4 home, 6 away
  • 7 wins | Nashville SC | 5 home, 2 away
  • 7 wins | D.C. United | 5 home, 2 away
  • 7 wins | Colorado Rapids | 5 home, 2 away
  • 6 wins | New York City FC | 4 home, 2 away
  • 6 wins | Seattle Sounders FC | 3 home, 3 away

Indeed, Sporting have made a habit of taking points on their travels and have come within one win of tying a single-season club record for most away victories during the non-shootout era. Kansas City won nine times away from home in 1997, back when tied games were decided by penalty shootouts. The club prevailed eight times on the road in three successive regular seasons from 2012 to 2014.

SPORTING KC: MOST AWAY WINS IN AN MLS REGULAR SEASON

  • 9 wins | 1997 | 9-7-0 record (shootout era)
  • 8 wins | 2012 | 8-4-5 record
  • 8 wins | 2013 | 8-5-4 record
  • 8 wins | 2014 | 8-8-1 record
  • 7 wins | 2021 | 7-4-2 record

Two of Sporting’s six multi-goal away wins this year have come against FC Dallas, who just so happen to boast one of the best home records in MLS over the last several seasons. Since the start of 2018, Dallas has gone 31-6-10 in the confines of Toyota Stadium. Three of those six defeats, incredibly enough, have come at the hands of Sporting.

On a related note, Sporting on Wednesday became the first team since 2003 to win twice at FC Dallas in the same regular season. The result also improved Sporting’s record to a perfect 6-0-0 this year in matches immediately following losses. This time around, the team recovered from a 2-1 home loss to Seattle last Sunday by coming out on top in a tricky road test just 72 hours later.

BEST MLS RECORDS IN GAMES IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING LOSSES
(2021 MLS REGULAR SEASON)

  • Sporting KC | 6-0-0 | 3.0 points per game
  • Nashville SC | 3-0-0 | 3.0 PPG
  • Colorado Rapids | 3-0-1 | 2.5 PPG
  • New England | 2-0-2 | 2.0 PPG
  • New York City FC | 5-2-2 | 1.8 PPG

The midweek triumph gives Vermes' men palpable momentum heading into a crucial home match on Sunday afternoon against rivals Houston Dynamo FC at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the 3 p.m. CT contest, Sporting's last home game until Oct. 27, are available at SeatGeek.com and fans can catch the action live regionally on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as nationally on UniMas, TUDN and @TUDNUSA on Twitter.

If Sporting collects all three points on Sunday, Vermes would move into a tie for fourth place on Major League Soccer’s all-time list for coaching wins. Only Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley, Dominic Kinnear and the late Sigi Schmid have more regular season wins as an MLS head coach than Vermes, who in his 13th season at the helm is the longest tenured manager in league history.

WINNINGEST COACHES IN MLS REGULAR SEASON HISTORY

  • 240 wins | Sigi Schmid | 1999-2004, 2006-2018
  • 238 wins | Bruce Arena | 1996-1998, 2006-2016, 2019-present
  • 179 wins | Bob Bradley | 1998-2006, 2018-present
  • 170 wins | Dominic Kinnear | 2004-2018, 2020
  • 169 wins | Peter Vermes | 2009-present