Anyone who thought Sporting Kansas City’s road performances had peaked after recent multi-goal wins over the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC was sorely mistaken.
In a ruthless display of incisive attacking, Sporting (10-4-3, 33 points) soared atop the Western Conference standings with an emphatic 4-1 hammering of LAFC (6-6-5, 23 points) at a shell-shocked Banc of California Stadium on Wednesday night.
Alan Pulido marked his return from the Mexican national team with an opportunistic strike, Luis Martins opened his MLS scoring account, red-hot Daniel Salloi bagged a stunner and Gadi Kinda converted a brilliant header as Sporting handed LAFC their heaviest home defeat in club history.
Oh, and Manager Peter Vermes—the longest tenured head coach in Major League Soccer—just so happened to collect his 200th coaching win for the club in all competitions.
Sporting’s Hollywood script was punctuated by a devastating first half that saw the visitors race out to a 3-0 lead, silencing the 22,114 fans in attendance. For only the third time in the club’s 26-year existence, Sporting entered halftime with a three-goal cushion in a regular season road match.
Sporting KC: Largest first-half leads on the road
(MLS regular season, all-time)
- 3 goals: SKC 3-0 LAFC (08/04/2021)
- 3 goals: SKC 3-0 San Jose (09/15/2018)
- 3 goals: SKC 3-0 Columbus (05/14/2005)
Pulido, Martins and Salloi found the back of the net in opening 45 minutes, and although LAFC began the second half brightly, they were pegged back once more near the hour mark when Kinda’s excellent header off a pinpoint Graham Zusi cross extended the score to 4-0. Danny Musovski salvaged a late consolation goal for the hosts, but LAFC were nevertheless unable to avoid suffering their most lopsided home defeat in 58 MLS matches at Banc of California Stadium. Head coach Bob Bradley’s side has taken four multi-goal home losses since entering MLS in 2018, two of which at the hands of Vermes and Sporting.
LAFC: Heaviest home losses at Banc of California Stadium
(MLS regular season, all-time)
- 3 goals: LAFC 1-4 Sporting (08/04/2021)
- 2 goals: LAFC 0-2 Sporting (08/11/2018)
- 2 goals: LAFC 0-2 Minnesota (09/01/2019)
- 2 goals: LAFC 0-2 LA Galaxy (08/22/2020)
Eight minutes after Martins fired Sporting ahead 2-0 with a wonderfully taken strike off a Salloi assist, Salloi etched his own name on the score sheet with an inch-perfect finish past helpless LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero in the 36th minute. The freshly minted MLS All-Star has enjoyed the greatest season of his young career, blossoming into one of the league’s most prolific attacking players. Look no further than the fact that Salloi stands alone at the top of the MLS charts in combined goals (10) and primary assists (five).
Most combined goals and primary assists in 2021 MLS regular season
- 15: Daniel Salloi, SKC (10 goals, 5 assists)
- 14: Nani, ORL (8 goals, 6 assists)
- 13: Carles Gil, NE (2 goals, 11 assists)
- 12: Gustavo Bou, NE (10 goals, 2 assists)
- 11: four players tied
Salloi hit the 10-goal marker on Wednesday in Sporting’s 17th match of the regular season. That’s the fourth quickest run to 10 regular season goals in club history after Dom Dwyer (12 games in 2014), Preki (15 in 1996) and Eddie Johnson (16 in 2007).
With his contribution to the victory, Sporting KC Academy products have now scored or assisted in a remarkable 12 straight MLS matches dating back to May 16. Sporting’s rich crop of Homegrowns have accounted for 16 of 33 goals and 11 of 29 assists for the highest-scoring attack in MLS this season.
Sporting KC: Quickest to 10 goals in an MLS regular season
- 12 matches: Dom Dwyer (2014)
- 15 matches: Preki (1996)
- 16 matches: Eddie Johnson (2007)
- 17 matches: Daniel Salloi (2021)
- 21 matches: Preki (2003)
While Salloi was among the headline grabbers, another defining storyline to emerge from the midweek matchup was the production of Sporting’s outside backs. Martins, of course, notched his first MLS goal and Graham Zusi shredded LAFC down the right flank. He assisted goals to Salloi and Kinda with razor-sharp deliveries and in doing so, became the third active MLS player with 70 career assists in the regular season alongside Sacha Kljestan (97) and Diego Valeri (91).
Wednesday was also the fourth time since the dawn of the Opta era in 2010 that a Sporting defender recorded two primary assists in a regular season match. Zusi has done the deed three times since 2017, while Michael Harrington was the first to accomplish the feat in September 2010. Incredibly enough, the 34-year-old has tallied assists in three consecutive regular season games for the first time since August 2012.
Two primary assists by a Sporting KC defender
(MLS regular season, 2010-present)
- Graham Zusi: Aug. 4, 2021 (W 4-1 at LAFC)
- Graham Zusi: July 14, 2018 (L 2-3 at RBNY)
- Graham Zusi: Aug. 19, 2017 (W 2-0 vs. DAL)
- Michael Harrington: Sept. 22, 2010 (W 3-0 vs. HOU)
As impressive as Wednesday’s result was, it was hardly a departure from the norm for a Sporting outfit that has mastered the art of winning on the West Coast.
Indeed, Vermes’ men have won four of their five matches in the Pacific Time Zone this season—all of which by two or more goals. Sporting put San Jose to the sword in May before ousting the Galaxy, Seattle and LAFC over the last month. In five matches on the West Coast this year, Sporting has outscored opponents 13-5 and bundled 2.6 goals per game.
Perhaps more impressively, Sporting has become the first team ever to defeat LAFC, the Galaxy and Seattle on the road in the same season. Wildly enough, they’ve done so in each of their last three away fixtures.
Sporting KC on the West Coast this season
- W 3-1 at San Jose Earthquakes (05/22/2021)
- L 1-2 at Portland Timbers (06/19/2021)
- W 2-0 at LA Galaxy (07/04/2021)
- W 3-1 at Seattle Sounders FC (07/25/2021)
- W 4-1 at LAFC (08/04/2021)
Since falling 2-1 at Portland on June 19, Sporting has bounced back with three consecutive away victories. This is tied for the team’s second-longest road winning streak in a single regular season since Major League Soccer’s non-shootout era began in 2000—and the first time Sporting has secured three successive road wins by two or more goals. Kansas City set a team record with five away wins on the trot in 2014.
Sporting KC: Longest road winning streaks in single regular season
(Non-shootout era since 2000)
- 5 matches: 06/06/2014 to 07/26/2014
- 3 matches: 07/04/2021 to 08/04/2021
- 3 matches: 08/18/2012 to 09/19/2012
- 3 matches: 03/10/2012 to 04/18/2012
- 3 matches: 08/06/2005 to 08/13/2005
On the heels of a strong 2020 campaign that saw Sporting finish atop the Western Conference standings, it will come as little surprise that no other MLS club has a better road winning percentage over the last two seasons. Sporting boasts a 10-5-2 regular season record away from home since the start of 2020, good for a .647 winning percentage.
Best road winning percentages since start of 2020
(MLS regular season)
- Sporting KC: 0.647 (10-5-2 record)
- New England: 0.600 (10-6-4 record)
- Seattle: 0.593 (7-4-5 record)
- Colorado: 0.563 (8-6-2 record)
- Orlando: 0.500 (6-6-6 record)
The conclusion of Wednesday’s contest signaled the official halfway point of Sporting’s 2021 regular season campaign. With a 10-4-3 record and 1.94 points per game, Sporting are on pace for their best regular season in team history.
Sporting KC: Most points per match in a season
(MLS regular season, all time)
- 2021: 1.94 (10-4-3 record)
- 2020: 1.86 (12-6-3 record)
- 2012: 1.85 (18-7-9 record)
- 2018: 1.82 (18-8-8 record)
- 2000: 1.78 (16-7-9 record)
Last but certainly not least, we would be remiss not to take a closer look at Vermes’ 200 wins at the helm of Sporting. Operating in his current role since 2009, he is the longest tenured head coach in Kansas City sports history and no MLS coach has managed more matches for a single club.
Peter Vermes: 200 wins as Sporting’s manager
- 165 wins in regular season (165-125-96 record)
- 6 in MLS Cup Playoffs (6-8-6 record)
- 20 in U.S. Open Cup (20-7-3 record)
- 9 in international tournaments (9-7-4 record)
- 200 in all competitions (200-148-110 record)
Sporting will look to continue their winning ways Saturday when they visit the fourth-place Colorado Rapids (8-4-3, 27 points) in a compelling Western Conference clash at 8 p.m. CT. Supporters can catch the action live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.