Goalkeeper John Pulskamp made four saves as Sporting Kansas City (0-1-1, 1 point) collected their first result of the season in a 0-0 stalemate against the Colorado Rapids (0-1-1, 1 point) on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
Sporting threatened throughout the night with 11 shots on target—the most in a match by an MLS team this season and Kansas City’s most in an MLS road game since October 2010—but Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough had a career-high 11 saves to ensure a sharing of the spoils.
With their two-game road swing in the rearview mirror, Sporting will return to the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park next Saturday, March 11, for a highly anticipated home opener against longtime rivals LA Galaxy (0-1-0, 0 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. The contest will be shown live via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, and tickets for the Western Conference clash are available at SeatGeek.com.
After competing on turf on a rainy, 40-degree night in Portland on Monday, Sporting played at altitude in 37-degree conditions with a starting lineup that featured one change. Winger Khiry Shelton dropped to the bench and Cypriot forward Marinos Tzionis slotted into a three-man attack alongside Willy Agada and Daniel Salloi, who in his eighth MLS season was making his first appearance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. On the backline, meanwhile, 15-year veteran Graham Zusi logged his club-record 350th start in all competitions and became the fifth player ever to eclipse 27,000 regular season minutes with a single MLS club.
Seeking their first win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since 2014, Sporting survived a major scare within 60 seconds of kickoff. Colorado striker Darren Yapi raced through on the breakaway and had only Pulskamp to beat, but Sporting’s 21-year-old goalkeeper—the youngest American to play at his position in MLS this season—produced a brilliant reflex stop, allowing defender Robert Voloder to retreat and extinguish the danger.
The visitors found their footing and replied in the eighth minute as midfielder Erik Thommy, who had a team-high four shots on goal, drove forward and unleashed a 20-yard strike that Yarbrough leapt to coral. A dozen minutes later, Sporting veteran Roger Espinoza—returning to his hometown for the 11th time in the regular season—tried his luck from even longer distance with a blast that Yarbrough saved comfortably.
Colorado appeared to have drawn first blood on 13 minutes when the 18-year-old Yapi poked home at close range off a touch from teammate Sam Nicholson, but VAR intervened and referee Allen Chapman nullified the goal after Yapi was ruled to be in an offside position. The Rapids were ruing their misfortune once more in the 27th minute as Zusi’s defensive header off a Michael Barrios cross caromed off the post and nearly skipped across the goal line, only to be cleared away by Zusi himself.
The first decent look of the second half fell to Sporting off an orchestrated set piece that saw Thommy tee up midfielder Remi Walter for a long-range drive that was saved in the 52nd minute. Seconds later, Salloi squared up his marker on the left side of the box and shot from a tight angle, forcing Yarbrough into a stop at the near post.
Just past the hour mark, Thommy asked further questions of the Rapids defense by cutting centrally and unearthing a left-footed sledgehammer from the top of the box that Yarbrough did well to cast aside. At the opposite end, Pulskamp showcased more smart goalkeeping in the 67th minute by advancing off his line to smother what would have been an open shot attempt from Colorado’s Cole Bassett.
Both keepers stood on their respective heads at the 70-minute juncture. Yarbrough dove at full extension to thwart Thommy’s sweetly struck 28-yard free kick, then gathered himself to block Salloi’s thumping rebound attempt on the right side of the penalty area. On the other end of the pitch, Pulskamp reacted superbly by dropping low to deny Barrios what would have been his sixth career goal against Sporting.
Salloi led all players with six shot attempts in the match and went agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 86th minute, latching onto Zusi’s superb long ball over the top, but Yarbrough dove right to get his mitt to the looping effort and keep the game scoreless.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 2
Dick's Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
Weather: 37 degrees and clear
Sporting Kansas City (0-1-1, 1 point)
Colorado Rapids (0-1-1, 1 point)
Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp; Graham Zusi, Robert Voloder, Andreu Fontas, Ben Sweat (Tim Leibold 82'); Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza (Felipe Hernandez 72'), Erik Thommy (C) (Cam Duke 88'); Marinos Tzionis (Khiry Shelton 72'), Willy Agada, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Robert Castellanos, Kayden Pierre, Chris Rindov, Jake Davis
Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough (C); Keegan Rosenberry, Lalas Abubakar, Andreas Maxso, Steven Beitashour; Ralph Priso (Max 46'), Cole Bassett, Connor Ronan; Michael Barrios (Braian Galvan 77'), Darren Yapi, Sam Nicholson (Kevin Cabral 63')
Subs Not Used: Abraham Rodriguez, Sebastian Anderson, Alex Gersbach, Danny Wilson, Bryan Acosta, Calvin Harris
COL -- Lalas Abubakar (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 3'
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 58'
COL -- Kevin Cabral (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 69'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referee: Logan Brown
Assistant Referee: Kali Smith
Fourth Official: Malik Badawi
VAR: Greg Dopka
AVAR: Fabio Tovar