Match Recap

Recap: Late Alenis goal gives Sporting 2-1 comeback win over Seattle

An early equalizer from captain Johnny Russell and a dramatic late winner from Alenis Vargas propelled Sporting Kansas City (3-9-5, 14 points) to a well-deserved 2-1 victory over Seattle Sounders FC (4-7-6, 18 points) on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

Jordan Morris fired the visitors ahead inside 12 minutes, but Russell restored parity from long ranger shortly thereafter for his third goal in as many weeks. After the Sounders were reduced to 10 men in the second half for two yellow cards on Reed Baker-Whiting, Vargas stamped his name as an impact substitute by slotting home in the 85th minute as Sporting came from behind to perform a satisfying suplex on Seattle.

Saturday’s result snapped a seven-game losing streak and a 10-match winless spell in league play as Sporting jumped off the foot of the Western Conference table and improved its record against Seattle to 11-5-3 in the last 19 regular season meetings since 2015.

Sporting will play for a second successive win next Saturday, June 15, by visiting LA Galaxy (7-3-7, 28 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park. Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.

Vermes made six changes to Sporting’s lineup from a 3-1 loss at Minnesota United FC last weekend. Russell, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold, Erik Thommy, Alan Pulido and Daniel Salloi all returned to the XI after not starting in the team’s previous two matches.

Thommy was involved early and often, doing well to shrug off a challenge from Cristian Roldan in the sixth minute before teeing up Salloi for a shot that was saved by veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei. A minute later, Thommy squared up Alex Roldan before cutting centrally and forcing another stop from Frei at the near post.

The Sounders had won three of their previous four away matches and conjured danger of their own at the 10-minute interval, but Albert Rusnak’s close-range effort off a feed from Raul Ruidiaz blazed over the crossbar. Sporting were less fortunate moments later, however, as Joao Paulo set Morris free with a clever ball in behind the defense that Seattle’s homegrown forward expertly buried low into the left corner as the visitors took a 1-0 lead.

Seattle’s advantage was short-lived, much to the enjoyment of a zealous Children’s Mercy Park crowd. A ball played into the box for Pulido fell to the feet of Memo Rodriguez, and although the Sounders dealt with the initial threat, Russell collected possession and took aim from 22 yards, picking out the left corner with aplomb for his third goal of the year—all of which have come since May 18. Russell now has seven goals against Seattle in the regular season, his most against any MLS opponent, while Sporting leads MLS with nine goals from outside the box in 2024.

The teams traded chances near the half-hour mark with Ruidiaz unleashing a 30-yard bomb that missed marginally before Salloi volleyed inches over the bar off a delectable back-post service from Leibold.

Sporting took ascendancy in the second half and could have gone in front on 49 minutes, but Pulido’s curler to culminate a patient and well-worked buildup drifted wide. Seattle’s best look of the half came in the 62nd minute when Melia punched a teasing cross only as far as Obed Vargas, who smoked a volley high from the top of the box.

The hosts asked further questions of the Seattle defense in the 69th minute as Russell galloped goalward and spread the ball to Salloi, who then picked out Pulido for a swiveling side volley that Frei corralled. Salloi suffered a leg injury on the play and was replaced by Vargas, who entered the action alongside fellow reinforcements Khiry Shelton and Felipe Hernandez, who on Saturday turned 26 years old.

Already on the backfoot, Seattle suffered a major blow in the 73rd minute when Baker-Whiting was sent off for his second bookable offense on Vargas. Sporting turned its numerical advantage into clear dominance in the dying embers, with Thommy almost blowing the roof off the stadium with an admirable 25-yard drive that fizzed narrowly amiss.

The game’s decisive play unfolded with five minutes remaining. Afforded space on the right channel, Shelton slipped a brilliant through ball into the box for Vargas, who still had work to do from a tight angle. Undeterred, the 20-year-old Honduran unleashed a low drive that beat Frei at his near post and ignited rapturous celebrations inside Children’s Mercy Park. Shelton has assists in each of his last two home appearances, while Vargas has tallied his second goal of his debut MLS campaign—the first of which came in Sporting’s previous victory on March 30 at Toronto FC.

Vargas’ strike stood as the final flashbulb moment of the match as Sporting saw out its 2-1 lead until the final whistle and moved to 12th place in the West, four points behind the 10th-place and always unlikable Sounders.

2024 MLS Regular Season | Match 17
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 18,177
Weather: 82 degrees and sunny

Sporting Kansas City 2-1 Seattle Sounders FC
Sporting Kansas City (3-9-5, 14 points)
Seattle Sounders FC (4-7-6, 18 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jake Davis (Khiry Shelton 72'), Robert Castellanos, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold (Zorhan Bassong 88'); Nemanja Radoja, Memo Rodriguez (Felipe Hernandez 72'), Erik Thommy; Johnny Russell (C), Alan Pulido (Willy Agada 90+6'), Daniel Salloi (Alenis Vargas 72')

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Kayden Pierre, Robert Voloder, Marinos Tzionis

Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei (C); Alex Roldan, Yeimar, Jackson Ragen, Reed Baker-Whiting; Obed Vargas, Joao Paulo (Josh Atencio 81'); Cristian Roldan, Albert Rusnak (Antino Lopez 85'), Jordan Morris (Danny Musovski 85'); Raul Ruidiaz (Cody Baker 74')

Subs Not Used: Andrew Thomas, Leu Chu, Danny Leyva, Paul Rothrock, Dylan Teves

Scoring Summary:
SEA -- Jordan Morris 4 (Joao Paulo 1) 12'
SKC -- Johnny Russell 3 (unassisted) 19'
SKC -- Alenis Vargas 2 (Khiry Shelton 2) 85'

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Jake Davis (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 45+2'
SEA -- Reed Baker-Whiting (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 61'
SKC -- Johnny Russell (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 71'
SEA -- Yeimar (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 71'
SEA -- Reed Baker-Whiting (yellow card/red card; unsporting behavior) 73'
SKC -- Khiry Shelton (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+4'

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
Assistant Referee: Cameron Blanchard
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Malik Badawi
VAR: Tim Ford
AVAR: TJ Zablocki