Sporting Kansas City (17-8-7, 58 points) suffered a 2-1 road defeat Sunday afternoon to Minnesota United FC (13-11-9, 48 points) at Allianz Field.

Khiry Shelton’s early goal assisted by Johnny Russell was not enough to earn Sporting KC any points in their penultimate away match of the 2021 regular season. Russell has now scored or assisted in a club-record nine straight MLS matches.

Sporting’s final regular season road fixture will take place Wednesday night when Manager Peter Vermes’ side makes its Q2 Stadium debut against Austin FC in an 8 p.m. CT kickoff. Fans can catch the action live regionally on Bally Sports Kansas City and the Bally Sports app.

Vermes’ starting XI for the Sunday showdown included three changes from Wednesday’s midweek 2-0 home win over LA Galaxy as Tim Melia re-entered the XI after serving his one-match suspension in place of John Pulskamp, Ilie returned to his role of center back in lieu of Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Cam Duke made his sixth start in the midfield role Ilie played Wednesday.

Sporting KC got out to the early lead off the boot of Shelton. After forcing a turnover in the attacking third, Gadi Kinda won Sporting a corner. The ball was played short, then lifted to the backside of the box where Russell was waiting for it. The in-form forward headed the ball back across the goal where Shelton smashed home to give Sporting the 1-0 advantage in the eigth minute.

Minnesota nearly equalized in the 16th minute when Robin Lod chopped a half volley off the turf right at the net. The skipped shot bounced a bit too high, skimming off the top of the goal and out for a Sporting KC goal kick. Less than five minutes later the Loons got their equalizer when Franco Fragapane sent a shot through traffic off the diving, outstretched hands of Melia and into the Sporting goal.

Spurred by a raucous home crowd, Minnesota continued their first-half onslaught. Melia kept the match on level terms with an incredible two-handed save on the near post. However, the home side snagged a 2-1 advantage by way of an Emanuel Reynoso Panenka penalty. Minnesota took the one goal lead into the half.

Minnesota started the second half on the front foot with two dangerous-looking advances in the first five minutes. The first came when Adrian Hunou’s cross found Chase Gasper wide open in the middle of the box. The defender, in unfamiliar territory that high up the pitch, redirected the cross with his head well high of the goal. Moments later, Roger Espinoza’s perfectly timed tackle quelled another Loons charge into the box.

Sporting was given a free kick along the right sideline of the attacking third in the 52nd minute, which saw Russell’s curling cross glance off Ilie’s head just over Tyler Miller’s goal. Two minutes later, Vermes brought on MLS MVP candidate Daniel Salloi for fellow academy product Duke, looking to change the tide of the match.

Sporting KC launched a promising attack in the 60th minute with some excellent combination passing in the midfield. Zusi found space at the corner of the box and lofted a cross in between Shelton and Kinda, but it was barely too high for both Sporting attackers.

On the other side of the field, Melia made another superb save, diving to his left to save a Hunou header. Wil Trapp then fired a shot which got deflected in traffic by his own teammate, which was followed by an Alonso screamer sent high of the mark.

Sporting continued to put pressure on shortly thereafter when Luis Martins’ cross ended up testing Miller’s reflexes as it floated towards the upper 90 of the goal. Kinda followed that up right away with a shot on goal that Miller fell on and held on to.

Alonso became the first Loon to go into the referee’s book with a yellow card in the 73rd minute. Fragapane had a chance for a brace and to put the game out of reach with a shot from inside the 18, but send it into the stands.

Sporting had a chance of their own snuffed out in the 78th as Shelton was played into space by Salloi but could not get a shot off before being taken down inside the box on a clean but physical challenge. Kinda was shown a yellow card a minute later for a challenge in the midfield.

The game started getting chippy with a Fragapane challenge on Russell in Sporting’s defensive third that resulted in a yellow. Amadou Dia, who was a part of a trio of subs in the 82nd minute, was then given a yellow for a challenge along the sideline in front of Minnesota’s technical area.

Sporting Kansas City holds onto first place in the Western Conference by virtue of greater goal differential than Seattle Sounders FC but could fall to second place depending on Seattle’s result against the LA Galaxy on Monday night. Sporting will still have a game in hand over the Sounders heading into Wednesday as the final week of the MLS regular season beckons.

2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 32
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
Attendance: 19,682
Weather: 44 degrees and sunny

Sporting KC 1-2 Minnesota United FC
Sporting Kansas City (17-8-7, 58 points)
Minnesota United FC (13-11-9, 48 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ilie Sanchez, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins (Amadou Dia 82'); Remi Walter, Cam Duke (Daniel Salloi 54'), Roger Espinoza (Jose Mauri 82'); Johnny Russell (C), Gadi Kinda, Khiry Shelton (Grayson Barber 82')
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Roberto Puncec, Kaveh Rad, Jake Davis

Minnesota United FC: Tyler Miller; Romain Metanire, Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, Chase Gasper; Wil Trapp, Osvaldo Alonso (C); Robin Lod, Emanuel Reynoso (Hassani Dotson 90'), Franco Fragapane; Adrien Hunou (Ethan Finlay 70')
Subs Not Used: Dayne St. Clair, Brent Kallman, Jukka Raitala, Jan Gregus, Niko Hansen, Joseph Rosales, Fanendo Adi

Scoring Summary:
SKC -- Khiry Shelton 3 (Johnny Russell 8, Gadi Kinda 7) 8'
MIN -- Franco Fragapane 5 (unassisted) 20'
MIN -- Emanuel Reynoso 5 (penalty kick) 39'

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Cam Duke (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 48'
MIN -- Osvaldo Alonso (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 73'
SKC -- Gadi Kinda (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 79'
MIN -- Franco Fragapane (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 84'
SKC -- Amadou Dia (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 86'

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Victor Rivas
Assistant Referee: Jeremy Kieso
Assistant Referee: Ryan Graves
Fourth Official: Joshua Encarnacion
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero
AVAR: Robert Schaap