Preseason Recap: Sporting rallies late for 2-2 draw against Louisville

Remi Walter - Sporting KC vs. Louisville City FC - Feb. 4, 2023

Remi Walter scored two second-half goals, including a 90th-minute equalizer, as Sporting Kansas City rallied to secure a 2-2 friendly draw against Louisville City FC on Saturday afternoon at Grand Canyon University Soccer Stadium in Phoenix.

After a scoreless first half, Louisville took a 2-0 lead through Jorge Gonzalez and Wilson Harris before Sporting battled back with a pair of strikes from Walter, who converted a penalty kick in the 75th minute and then leveled terms on the final consequential kick of the game.

The USL Championship heavyweights were first to threaten in the eighth minute, but goalkeeper John Pulskamp did well to dive left and cast aside a long-range drive from Louisville.

Sporting replied near the half-hour mark as captain Johnny Russell surged down the right side and cut the ball to Danny Flores at the top of the box. The 20-year-old midfielder's clever backheel pass found an open Yeison Mejia on the left side of the penalty area, but his near-post effort was saved. Sporting retained possession on the play and Russell planted a powerful header that the Louisville keeper leapt to corral.

Pulskamp was called to action once more in the dying embers of the first period, reacting to a tight-angle piledriver by making a brilliant finger-tip stop at full extension to keep the game goalless.

Manager Peter Vermes made wholesale changes at intermission as a fresh XI entered the fray for Sporting, and it took only two minutes for the new group to create a clearcut chance. Marinos Tzionis used trickery and pace to break free from a midfield scuffle, blister forward and spread the ball left to Daniel Salloi, whose strike sailed high. Not long later, Tzionis outfoxed his marker and picked out an open Walter, but the ensuing shot deflected inches wide into the side netting.

Gonzalez delivered Louisville's first hammer blow in the 54th minute, finding a pocket of space from 22 yards out and sending a volley into the top right corner to give his side a 1-0 advantage.

Sporting responded well and very nearly restored parity twice in the space of a minute. Tzionis sent a venomous volley marginally wide before Graham Zusi saw his 20-yard belter punched away by the Louisville keeper.

Although Sporting were growing in stature, Louisville managed to double their lead through Harris as the Sporting KC Academy product fired into the roof of the net from an acute angle on 67 minutes.

Salloi went agonizingly close to cutting the deficit in half in the 72nd minute, unleashing an 18-yard screamer that the Louisville gloveman touched just over the crossbar. Yet Sporting would get a deserved goal back only three minutes later, with Tzionis drawing a foul inside the box and Walter expertly burying the subsequent spot kick into the right corner.

Walter pulled Sporting even in the final minute of a game that was played in 74-degree sunshine. Jake Davis' corner kick was nodded clear only as far as the Frenchman, whose sweetly struck left-footed shot from 15 yards nestled low into the back of the net.

Sporting's 2023 preseason, presented by Children's Mercy, will resume Wednesday with a friendly against longtime Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake. Kickoff from Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex is set for 2 p.m. CT and live updates will be available at @SKCMatchday on Twitter.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Louisville City FC
Feb. 4, 2023 – Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Sporting Kansas City 2, Louisville City FC 2

Scoring Summary:

LOU -- Jorge Gonzalez 54'
LOU -- Wilson Harris 67'
SKC -- Remi Walter (penalty kick) 75'
SKC -- Remi Walter 90'

Sporting Kansas City Lineups

First Half: John Pulskamp; Kayden Pierre, Kortne Ford, Andreu Fontas, Ben Sweat; Felipe Hernandez, Cam Duke, Danny Flores; Johnny Russell, Shaun Joash, Yeison Mejia

Second Half: Kendall McIntosh; Graham Zusi (Cam Duke 72'), Chris Rindov, Robert Voloder, Logan Ndenbe (Nassim Mekideche 84'); Roger Espinoza, Remi Walter, Jake Davis; Marinos Tzionis, Pau Vidal, Daniel Salloi