Sporting Kansas City (17-9-7, 58 points) suffered a setback in their Western Conference regular season title push, losing their inaugural match in the Texas capital to Austin FC (9-20-4, 31 points) by a 3-1 scoreline at Q2 Stadium.  

Johnny Russell stretched his club-record streak to 10 straight matches with a goal or assist and Gadi Kinda tallied his eighth assist of the season, but Sporting KC could not overcome Austin FC’s early goals.  

The attention now turns to MLS Decision Day as Sporting welcomes rivals Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park. The 2021 MLS regular season finale will take place Sunday at 5:25 p.m. CT as the MLS postseason picture solidifies, with Sporting set to finish anywhere between first and third in the West. Fans can catch the action live regionally on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest and the Bally Sports app. 

Manager Peter Vermes’ starting XI for the midweek matchup had two personnel changes and two positional changes with Nicolas Isimat-Mirin starting at center-back and Daniel Salloi making his first start since Oct. 17. These moves allowed Ilie Sanchez and Gadi Kinda to rejoin the midfield after both players stepped into different roles due to injuries.  

Not even a minute into the match, Austin grabbed a one-goal advantage off the head of Sebastian Driussi after Jared Stroud sent a cross from inside the box across the face of goal. Graham Zusi fired Sporting’s first attempt just high in the ninth before Stroud nearly doubled Austin’s lead, pinging a shot off the right post from just inside the box.  

Sporting had a chance to level the match in the 20th minute after Graham Zusi won them a corner. The ball was played short back to Zusi whose floated ball to the back post drifted just out of reach of the Sporting runners.  

In the 21st minute, Isimat-Mirin was shown the match's first yellow card for a foul along the left sideline. Austin took advantage as Zan Kolmanic’s set-piece service connected with Julio Cascante and thudded off the turf and into the net.  

Now in a two-goal hole, Sporting looked to claw their way back in. The first opportunity came when Kinda’s diagonal ball nearly got to Russell but was intercepted by a dashing Brad Stuver. Ilie then joined the attack and cleverly slotted Salloi in for a shot. The Hungarian international’s turf burner bounced inches wide of the mark into the side netting. Kinda then put Sporting’s first shot on goal right at Stuver who made the save.  

Russell and Sporting KC continued to fight. The in-form forward skipped a shot from close range over the bar, trying to bounce it past Stuver. He followed that sequence up by showing incredible resilience by winning the ball back, slipping and then regained his feet and sent a shot just off the thigh of Stuver.  

Austin was not satisfied with two first-half goals as they continued to attack the Sporting KC goal. Driussi, looking for his second goal of the contest, opted for a side swiped volley off a corner but Tim Melia was there to deny Driussi. Kinda immediately followed that play up with a shot on target, and a cross off a short corner, both ending in the arms of Stuver.  

Right on the cusp of halftime Melia made an incredible save, sprinting and then sliding back into position to deny Diego Fagundez on the back door, despite the offsides flag being up. Austin took the two-goal advantage into halftime.

The second half got out to a quick start with Jon Gallagher picking up a yellow card for a hard foul on Khiry Shelton. On the other end of the pitch Fagundez found space for a shot but had it deflected by a late arriving defender into the hands of Melia. 

The Sporting KC attack led by Russell continued to push against the Austin backline with an advance into the box. The final ball nicked off Russell’s back foot and was cleared away out of the Kansas City attacking third. Ilie then struck an ambitious half volley in the 58th minute that curled just off frame. 

Austin struck for a third time in the 60th minute on the counter attack. Fagundez found Stroud on the backside and the midfielder slid the ball past a charging Melia for his first goal of the season.  

Remi Walter saw a shot go just wide before Russell finally buried the ball in the back of the net in the 65th minute. Kinda found Luis Martins who crossed the ball into the middle of the area where Russell sprinted in front of the defender and thundered home a header with authority. 

Sporting KC Academy product Cam Duke was the first off the Sporting KC bench replacing Kinda in the 68th minute. Grayson Barber then took off the goal scoring Russell in the 78th minute. A minute later Salloi was whistled for a foul after Stuver dashed off his line and came close to colliding with the Sporting KC forward.  

Sporting had a few chances to pull another one back with just under 10 minutes left but left empty handed after sustained pressure. Walter had another shot blocked before nearly combining with Shelton on the back post. Barber and Duke each offered up good opportunities but the Austin FC defense did not yield. 

Sporting earned a set-piece in the 88th minute in a dangerous spot 35 yards out but the wall did its job for Austin FC. Quickly after Austin launched a counterattack that amounted to nothing with Fagundez doinking a shot into the Austin supporter’s section.  

Sporting KC’s final attack of the night saw Shelton’s headed ball across the face of goal cleared, and then Martins’ half volley get stopped in traffic.  

Sporting KC leaves Austin tied for second place with Colorado Rapids and just one point back of leaders Seattle Sounders FC. Final positioning between the three clubs will be decided on Sunday when they kick off simultaneously in three different MLS fixtures as part of Decision Day.

2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 33
Q2 Stadium | Austin, Texas
Attendance: 20,738
Weather: 51 degrees and cloudy

Sporting KC 1-3 Austin FC
Sporting Kansas City (17-9-7, 58 points)
Austin FC (9-20-4, 31 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Ilie Sanchez, Remi Walter, Gadi Kinda (Cam Duke 68'); Johnny Russell (C) (Grayson Barber 78'), Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Roberto Puncec, Kaveh Rad, Jake Davis, Roger Espinoza, Jose Mauri, Wilson Harris

Austin FC: Brad Stuver; Jon Gallagher, Julio Cascante, Alex Ring (C), Zan Kolmanic; Daniel Pereira, Tomas Pochettino; Jared Stroud (Cecilio Dominguez 76'), Sebastian Driussi (Owen Wolff 90+3'); Diego Fagundez (Freddy Kleemann 90+2’); Moussa Djitte (McKinze Gaines II 61')

Subs Not Used: Andrew Tarbell, Aedan Stanley, Sebastian Berhalter, Kekuta Manneh

Scoring Summary:
ATX -- Sebastian Driussi 5 (Jared Stroud 4, Diego Fagundez 4) 1’
ATX -- Julio Cascante 2 (Zan Kolmanic 4) 22’
ATX -- Jared Stroud 1 (Diego Fagundez 5) 60’
SKC -- Johnny Russell 15 (Luis Martins 4, Gadi Kinda 8) 65’

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 21'
ATX -- Jon Gallagher (yellow card, unsporting behavior) 50'

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Nima Saghafi
Assistant Referee: Chantal Boudreau
Assistant Referee: Diego Blas
Fourth Official: Allen Chapman
VAR: Daniel Radford
AVAR: Jonathan Johnson