Gadi Kinda came off the bench to score a crucial late winner as Sporting Kansas City (9-12-8, 35 points) earned a gritty 1-0 road victory over Minnesota United FC (9-9-10, 37 points) on Saturday night at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Kinda conjured the decisive goal in the 84th minute, settling a long diagonal pass from fellow substitute Roger Espinoza before cutting centrally and slotting home to give Sporting three precious points in the club’s postseason push. The 1-0 result propels Sporting into the ninth and final playoff spot in the provisional Western Conference standings with a month of the regular season still to play.
Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia made four saves—including a jaw-dropping stop in the second half to keep the game goalless—en route to his 75th career shutout for the club in all competitions. His performance was key to Sporting’s first road clean sheet since April 1 and the team’s first 1-0 away win since Oct. 28, 2020.
Coaching his 550th match for Sporting in all competitions, Manager Peter Vermes made one change to his team’s starting lineup from a 3-2 loss at Inter Miami CF last weekend as Nemanja Radoja replaced fellow midfielder Felipe Gutierrez.
The visitors enjoyed a vibrant start by creating the first two scoring chances of the night. In the sixth minute, Erik Thommy played a clever backheel pass down the left side to Alan Pulido, who earlier this week had signed a new contract with Sporting through 2026. The Mexican Designated Player squared up his defender and pulled the ball back to the top of the box for Remi Walter, whose first-time effort was deflected wide.
Shortly thereafter, Homegrown forward Daniel Salloi chased down a booming delivery over the top and gathered possession near the left corner flag. His searching cross into the mixer found Johnny Russell on the opposite side of the box, and although the Sporting captain did well to chest the ball down to his feet, his booming strike lifted marginally over the bar.
Minnesota weathered the early storm and gained a foothold at the 20-minute juncture. Midfield Talisman Emanuel Reynoso slipped a through ball into the attacking third for former English Premier League veteran Teemu Pukki, but his shot on the run was repelled by retreating center back Dany Rosero. Melia then produced his first save of the contest, dropping low to swallow a shot from D.J. Taylor.
Both sides exchanged punches near the 35th minute. Thommy forced Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair into a diving stop by unleashing a venomous, long-range blast that was touched behind for a corner kick. Pulido latched onto the ensuing delivery, but his header missed the mark by a matter of inches. At the opposite end, Reynoso’s sweetly struck free kick was parried away by the outstretched Melia to keep the scoreline at 0-0.
Caginess continued to characterize proceedings after the restart. Sporting’s Logan Ndenbe and Minnesota’s Franco Fragapane swapped speculative efforts at the hour mark. Vermes’ men then breathed a collective sigh of relief in the 63rd minute when Loons winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane shook free of his marker and fizzed a low ball across the face of goal that evaded a host of Minnesota teammates.
Sporting right back Jake Davis spared his team’s blushes in the 66th minute with a season-saving intervention on the goal line. Minnesota substitute Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was on the end of Reynoso’s incisive low cross and pinged a shot goalward, but the ball caromed off the back of Davis’ head, looped inches over the crossbar and nestled onto the roof of the net.
Melia was equally heroic in the 74th minute, stymying the opposition by diving right at full extension to cast aside a shot from a wide open Pukki at the penalty spot. Five minutes later, Reynoso whipped a free kick into the box for defender Michael Boxall to head past Melia, but the offside flag was rightly raised and the goal was disallowed.
Having survived a slew of second-half scares, Sporting put Minnesota to the sword with six minutes remaining. Afforded space on the left side of midfield, Espinoza sent a pinpoint ball diagonally to Kinda, who maneuvered past his marker on the right side of the box. The Israeli international eluded a defender near the penalty spot and tucked a clinical finish past St. Clair to give Sporting a 1-0 advantage the team would not relinquish.
With three gigantic points in the bag, Sporting will return to Children’s Mercy Park for a pair of colossal home matches next week. Vermes’ side will host Nashville SC on Wednesday and Houston Dynamo FC on Saturday, with both games kicking off at 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets available on SeatGeek.com.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 29
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
Weather: 82 degrees and clear
Sporting Kansas City (9-12-8, 35 points)
Minnesota United FC (9-9-10, 37 points)
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas, Logan Ndenbe (Tim Leibold 74'); Nemanja Radoja (Roger Espinoza 80'), Remi Walter, Erik Thommy (Gadi Kinda 70'); Johnny Russell (C) (Khiry Shelton 81'), Alan Pulido, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Robert Voloder, Danny Flores, Stephen Afrifa, Willy Agada
Minnesota United FC: Dayne St. Clair; D.J. Taylor, Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, Ethan Bristow; Jan Gregus, Hassani Dotson; Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Ismael Tajouri-Shradi 63'), Emanuel Reynoso, Franco Fragapane (Sang Bin Jeong 63'); Teemu Pukki (Mender Garcia 80')
Subs Not Used: Clint Irwin, Brent Kallman, Devin Padelford, Zarek Valentin, Joseph Rosales, Wil Trapp
SKC -- Gadi Kinda 3 (Roger Espinoza 2) 84'
MIN -- D.J. Taylor (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 24'
SKC -- Andreu Fontas (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 44'
SKC -- Daniel Salloi (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+1'
SKC -- Gadi Kinda (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+5'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Tori Penso
Assistant Referee: Cory Richardson
Assistant Referee: Adam Garner
Fourth Official: Adam Kilpatrick
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Gjovalin Bori