Alan Pulido and Daniel Salloi struck second-half goals to spark a dramatic comeback victory as Sporting Kansas City (7-3-2, 23 points) edged 10-man LAFC (3-4-3, 12 points) in a 2-1 thriller at electric Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday afternoon.

In a game that entertained from beginning to end, Sporting suffered a setback in the first half when Kim Moon-Hwan fired the visitors ahead against the run of play. Like they have done so often this season, Manager Peter Vermes’ men responded admirably with Pulido equalizing near the hour mark—shortly after LAFC defender Tristan Blackmon was sent off—and Salloi continuing his red-hot run of form by sinking an 87th-minute winner.

The momentous result lifts Sporting within a point of Supporters’ Shield leaders Seattle Sounders FC ahead of tonight’s MLS action and gives the team a remarkable 16 points from losing positions this year, 10 more than any other club. Just 12 games into the 2021 campaign, Sporting has equaled a regular season club record with five comeback wins.

A raucous Children’s Mercy Park atmosphere provided the perfect setting for a nationally televised clash on ESPN as Vermes made one single change to Sporting’s lineup from a 3-1 home triumph over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night. Pulido replaced Khiry Shelton at the tip of a three-pronged attack, flanked by Salloi and captain Johnny Russell.

Hot and humid playing conditions paved the way for Sporting to assert early dominance in territory and possession. The hosts conjured their first clear-cut chance after four minutes when Russell and Salloi combined brilliantly on the left edge of the box before the latter sent a cutback pass to Jaylin Lindsey, whose blistering strike from the opposite side of the penalty area fizzed narrowly over the crossbar.

LAFC weathered an early barrage of Sporting pressure and grew into the game, taking a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute. Jose Cifuentes slipped a clever diagonal ball to Kim, who cut centrally from the right side and finished inside the near post for his first goal of the season. It marked the ninth time in 12 matches this season that Sporting has trailed, but the hosts would show their grit over the next 65 minutes.

Lindsey was the victim of a hamstring injury five minutes before intermission and was forced to exit, prompting the introduction of veteran defender Graham Zusi. With his introduction, the 34-year-old logged his club-record 350th appearance for Sporting in all competitions.

LAFC entered the weekend with an MLS-leading nine points dropped from winning positions and added to that total on Saturday, but not before nearly doubling their advantage 42 seconds into the second half. Kim’s low cross was met firmly by substitute Corey Baird, but his effort smacked off the head of outstretched goalkeeper Tim Melia and the score remained 1-0.

The complexion of the game changed significantly in the 58th minute when Blackmon was given his marching orders for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity by hauling Salloi to the turf just outside of the box. Gianluca Busio’s ensuing free kick was sweetly struck but rattled the crossbar and looped out of play, much to the chagrin of the 20,213 fans in attendance.

Undeterred, Sporting claimed a deserved equalizer in the 61st minute. Salloi’s in-swinging cross from the left channel was repelled only as far as Pulido, who expertly picked out the right corner on a left-footed blast from the top of the penalty area. In doing so, the Mexican international extended Sporting’s club-record home scoring streak to 22 matches and became just the third MLS player to bag six goals in each of the last two regular seasons.

Less than 15 minutes after pulling his side level, Pulido left the contest with a foot laceration that required stitches. Sporting didn’t miss a beat, however, and Zusi twice combined with Felipe Hernandez in the 72nd and 78th minutes. Hernandez hammered a volley wide on the first chance and LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero made a smart save on the 23-year-old’s diving header shortly thereafter.

Sporting earned their euphoric go-ahead goal in the 87th minute on an intricate buildup in the attacking third. Zusi fed Busio, who sprayed a pass wide left to Hernandez. The midfielder took a touch and rolled the ball invitingly to Salloi, who unleashed a sublime right-footed curler into the far corner to ignite rapturous celebrations inside the stadium. Salloi ranks third in MLS with seven goals this season and places second with 10 combined goals and assists.

Substitute Carlos Vela was on the receiving end of a final chance for LAFC in second-half stoppage time, but the Mexican star dragged his shot inches wide of Melia’s left-hand post and Sporting held on for all three points. In doing so, they pushed their 2021 home record to 5-0-2 and extended their regular season home unbeaten run to 10 matches dating back to last fall.

With two home wins in four days under their belts, Sporting will recuperate over the next week before visiting the LA Galaxy (6-3-0, 18 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday, July 4. The marquee Fourth of July fixture will kick off at 9:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City.

2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 12
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 20,213
Weather: 81 degrees and mostly sunny

Sporting KC 2-1 LAFC
Score
1
2
F
Sporting Kansas City (7-3-2, 23 points)
0
2
2
LAFC (3-4-3, 12 points)
1
0
1

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jaylin Lindsey (Graham Zusi 40'), Ilie Sanchez, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins (Amadou Dia 76'); Gianluca Busio, Roger Espinoza (Wilson Harris 85'), Felipe Hernandez; Johnny Russell (C), Alan Pulido (Khiry Shelton 76'), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Roberto Puncec, Kaveh Rad, Cam Duke

LAFC: Tomas Romero; Tristan Blackmon, Eddie Segura, Jesus Murillo, Kim Moon-Hwan (Mamadou Fall 82'), Marco Farfan; Jose Cifuentes (Mark-Anthony Kaye 46'), Eduard Atuesta (C), Latif Blessing (Carlos Vela 57'); Diego Rossi (Bryce Duke 82'), Danny Musovski (Corey Baird 46')
Subs Not Used: Pablo Sisniega, Raheem Edwards, Jordan Harvey, Francisco Ginella

Scoring Summary:
LAFC -- Kim Moon-Hwan (Jose Cifuentes 1) 24'
SKC -- Alan Pulido 6 (unassisted) 61'
SKC -- Daniel Salloi 7 (Felipe Hernandez 2, Gianluca Busio 2) 87'

Misconduct Summary:
LAFC -- Tristan Blackmon (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 12'
SKC -- Ilie Sanchez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 44'
LAFC -- Tristan Blackmon (red card; denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity) 58'
LAFC -- Tomas Romero (yellow card; time wasting) 64'

Match Statistics
Stat
SKC
LAFC
Shots
15
6
Shots on Goal
3
3
Saves
2
1
Fouls
11
8
Offsides
0
1
Corner Kicks
8
1

Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referee: Cameron Blanchard
Assistant Referee: Corey Rockwell
Fourth Official: Brandon Stevis
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic
AVAR: Kevin Lock