Seattle’s home fortress was breached emphatically on Sunday night.
Sitting atop the Western Conference table for three straight months, the Sounders entered the weekend unbeaten in 17 consecutive MLS matches at Lumen Field and hadn’t lost on home turf in almost 11 months. In eight home fixtures this season, they had more clean sheets (five) than goals conceded (four).
None of that mattered to Sporting Kansas City, who marched into perhaps the toughest venue in MLS and came away with a resounding 3-1 victory that lifted the club level with Seattle on points per game and within three points of the Supporters’ Shield lead.
Neither side was at full strength—due to a combination of injuries, health and safety protocols and international duty—but in the biggest battle of the 2021 MLS season to date, Sporting delivered a strong statement of intent against the two-time defending Western Conference champions.
Sensational goals from captain Johnny Russell, in-form winger Daniel Salloi and breakout midfielder Cam Duke paced a signature win for Sporting, who were also bailed out on multiple occasions by heroic goalkeeper Tim Melia.
“They’re a good team, but we weren’t going to sit back and let them come at us and dictate the game,” Russell said after the match. “We came in here to dictate the game. I felt we did that through the way we played.
“We knew we had to be very spirited and be dogs at times when we came in here. I think we showed them everything that we had to today.”
SILENCING THE SOUNDERS
Unlike many teams across MLS, Sporting are no strangers to success against Seattle. After going 1-7-1 in the first nine regular season meetings from 2009-2014, Sporting have gone 7-2-3 in the last dozen matchups. Since 2015, no MLS club has performed better against the Sounders, who during that time have won a pair of league titles and reached the MLS Cup on four occasions under head coach Brian Schmetzer.
Best regular season record versus Seattle since 2015
- Sporting KC: 7-2-3 (.708 win %)
- CF Montreal: 3-1-1 (.700 win %)
- Philadelphia Union: 3-1-1 (.700 win %)
- LAFC: 4-3-2 (.556 win %)
- Portland Timbers: 8-8-3 (.500 win%)
Just as impressively, Sporting have held their own in the daunting confines of Lumen Field. The Sounders have gone 79-19-20 at home in MLS competition over the last seven seasons and only five MLS opponents have multiple road wins at Lumen Field since then. Leading the way are Sporting and Portland with three apiece, although Sporting is the only team listed below with a winning record at the stadium.
Most regular season road wins at Seattle since 2015
- 3 wins: Sporting KC (3-2-1 record)
- 3 wins: Portland Timbers (3-4-2 record)
- 2 wins: Colorado Rapids (2-4-0 record)
- 2 wins: San Jose Earthquakes (2-5-1 record)
- 2 wins: Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2-5-1 record)
TIM MELIA STANDS TALL
Sporting have collected 30 points from their first 15 league matches this season, the second most after 15 games in club history behind an MLS Cup-winning campaign in 2000 that saw Kansas City start 10-2-3 with 33 points. A potent Sporting attack has tended to grab the headlines this year—as was the case on Sunday—but the contributions of Tim Melia simply cannot be overlooked.
The 35-year-old keeper made five saves this weekend—including three of the superb variety—to strengthen his phenomenal regular season record versus Seattle. Since 2015, no goalkeeper has more wins (seven) or road wins (three) against the Sounders. In nine meetings over the last seven seasons, Melia is 7-2-2 against Seattle with five shutouts. Not too shabby considering the level of competition the Sounders have consistently brought to the table.
Goalkeepers: Most regular season wins versus Seattle since 2015
- 7 wins: Tim Melia (Sporting KC) | 7-2-2 record, 5 shutouts
- 6 wins: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) | 6-4-0 record, 5 shutouts
- 4 wins: Tyler Miller (LAFC, Minnesota) | 4-0-1 record, 3 shutouts
- 4 wins: Steve Clark (Portland) | 4-3-1 record, 1 shutout
- 3 wins: Clint Irwin (Colorado, Toronto) | 3-2-0 record, 3 shutouts
- 3 wins: Evan Bush (Montreal) | 3-2-1 record, 2 shutouts
- 3 wins: David Bingham (San Jose, LA Galaxy) | 3-5-5 record, 2 shutouts
- 3 wins: David Ousted (Vancouver) | 3-7-1 record, 1 shutout
Goalkeepers: Most regular season road wins at Seattle since 2015
- 3 wins: Tim Melia (Sporting KC) | 3-2-1 record
- 2 wins: Clint Irwin (Colorado, Toronto) | 2-1-0 record
- 2 wins: Steve Clark (Portland) | 2-1-1 record
- 2 wins: David Ousted (Vancouver) | 2-3-0 record
- 2 wins: David Bingham (San Jose) | 2-4-0 record
- 1 win: ten goalkeepers
GREAT SCOT JOHNNY RUSSELL
The first half hour of Sunday’s slugfest came and went without a goal, but Russell turned things upside down with a sublime free kick that caromed off the far post and into the back of the net. The Scottish winger punctuated his game-changing performance with a secondary assist on Duke’s goal, making him one of only four MLS players to record 27 goals and 27 assists in the regular season since the start of 2018.
Additionally, Russell’s three goals from direct free kicks over the last three MLS seasons are tied for the second most in the league. His four goals against Seattle during the same time period rank first, with Sunday’s thunderbolt coming after he put the Sounders to the sword with a scintillating hat trick in a 3-2 home win on May 26, 2019.
Most regular season goals versus Seattle since 2019
- 4 goals: Johnny Russell (Sporting KC) | 3 appearances
- 3 goals: Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy | 2 appearances
- 3 goals: Carlos Vela (LAFC) | 3 appearances
- 3 goals: Andre Shinyashiki (Colorado) | 4 appearances
Most MLS goals on direct free kicks since 2019
- 5 goals: Lucas Zelarayan (Columbus Crew)
- 3 goals: Johnny Russell (Sporting KC)
- 3 goals: Eduard Atuesta (LAFC)
Elite Company: 27 goals + 27 assists in MLS regular season since 2018
- Carlos Vela (LAFC): 56 goals, 34 assists
- Diego Valeri (Portland): 28 goals, 37 assists
- Darwin Quintero (Minnesota, Houston): 28 goals, 30 assists
- Johnny Russell (Sporting KC): 27 goals, 27 assists
“I’m just delighted to help out,” Russell said. “That’s a massive result for us. (Seattle’s) a great side. They’re up at the top for a reason, but so are we.”
Sporting are 7-1-2 in their last 10 matches, thanks in part to the magical displays of 25-year-old Salloi. The Hungarian-born Sporting KC Academy product sent a sweet strike past goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland in the 42nd minute for what ultimately stood as the match winner. Salloi leads MLS with five game-winning goals this season and continues to climb the club’s all-time charts, his 11 career game-winners now tied for fourth most in Kansas City’s regular season history.
Sporting KC: Most game-winning goals in MLS regular season (all-time)
- 13 goals: Dom Dwyer (128 appearances)
- 13 goals: Preki (218 appearances)
- 12 goals: Chris Klein (200 appearances
- 11 goals: Daniel Salloi (101 appearances)
- 11 goals: Kei Kamara (113 appearances)
- 11 goals: Josh Wolff (144 appearances)
- 10 goals: Davy Arnaud (240 appearances)
Most game-winning goals in 2021 MLS regular season
- 5 goals: Daniel Salloi (Sporting KC)
- 4 goals: Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle Sounders FC)
- 3 goals: nine players
Salloi has six goals and an assist in his last seven appearances and his eight goals since May 16 are the most in MLS. By scoring before halftime on Sunday, he also extended an eye-opening streak that has seen Sporting KC Academy products score or assist in 10 consecutive matches dating back to mid-May.
SMILE FOR THE CAM
What a week it was for fellow Academy graduate Cam Duke. The Overland Park, Kansas, native made his first start of 2021 in Wednesday’s home draw against San Jose, starring in an all-action midfield role that drew praise from coaches, teammates and fans alike. Four days later, Duke opened his MLS scoring account with a wonderfully stuck first-time effort in the 72nd minute, just two minutes after his introduction as a substitute.
“These last two games, the way that (Duke) has approached these games has been tremendous for the team,” said Manager Peter Vermes, who watched the game from home due to health and safety protocols. “I hope that he continues to grow in confidence and maybe even a little bit of arrogance because he’s a shy kid. He needs to stick his chest out a little bit, especially because he’s done well. He’s proven that he can contribute and help the team win.”
Cam Duke statistics since July 21
- First career MLS goal
- 8 fouls suffered (3rd in MLS)
- 90.6% passing accuracy
- 13 duels won
- 3 tackles won (100% tackle success)
Duke’s late tally sealed a two-goal win for Sporting and handed the Sounders their first two-goal home loss since June 25, 2016—a remarkable run of 96 matches in all competitions and the first two-goal home defeat since Schmetzer took over as head coach.
The scoring play also proved significant for assist man Graham Zusi, whose delightful diagonal ball to Duke made him one of three players—alongside San Jose’s Shea Salinas and Seattle’s Will Bruin—to record an assist in each of the last 11 MLS seasons.
Over the last two seasons, no team has come away with more regular season road wins than Sporting. The club boasts a 9-5-2 record away from home dating back to February 2020, including a league-best road goal differential of plus-8.
Best regular season road record since 2020
- Sporting KC: 9-5-2 (.625 win %) | +8 goal differential (26-18)
- Seattle: 7-4-5 (.593 win %) | +5 goal differential (21-16)
- New England: 9-6-4 (.579 win %) | +6 goal differential (30-24)
- Colorado: 7-6-2 (.533 win %) | -1 goal differential (20-21)
- Orlando: 6-6-6 (.500 win %) | -4 goal differential (22-26)
Riding a palpable wave of momentum, Sporting will look to continue their winning ways Saturday when they host FC Dallas (3-7-5, 14 points) in the annual Sporting Salutes match sponsored by Hallmark. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. CT showdown at Children’s Mercy Park are available at SeatGeek.com, including Family Four-Packs consisting of four general admission tickets, four Coca-Cola products and four Domino’s pizzas.
Fans can also catch the action live on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.