Captain Johnny Russell came off the bench to score a second-half equalizer as Sporting Kansas City (5-11-5, 20 points) earned a spirited road result for the second straight game by drawing rivals Minnesota United FC (8-8-4, 28 points) 1-1 on Wednesday night at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Minnesota was fortunate to take a 1-0 halftime lead on a 43rd-minute Sporting own goal, but Manager Peter Vermes’ men responded admirably and claimed a point behind Russell’s 63rd-minute strike and his team-leading eighth goal of the year in all competitions. On the defensive side, 21-year-old goalkeeper John Pulskamp totaled four saves—including two stunning stops in the final moments—in his first MLS appearance of the 2022 campaign.

Sporting have now taken seven points from their last four road matches and own a 4-0-1 record in midweek contests this season, including three victories in the club’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals.

Manager Peter Vermes fielded a history-making lineup for the Rivalry Week encounter as Sporting Kansas City started five Homegrown Players for the first time—namely Pulskamp, right back Kayden Pierre, midfielder Felipe Hernandez and attacking duo Cam Duke and Daniel Salloi. Defenders Andreu Fontas, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Logan Ndenbe rounded out the backline, Uri Rosell and Remi Walter joined Hernandez in the center of the pitch and Marinos Tzionis manned the left wing as one of five changes from Saturday’s 2-1 road win at CF Montreal.

Veteran goalkeeper Tim Melia was notably sidelined with a shoulder injury—missing his first MLS match since last October—and captain Johnny Russell was available off the bench as Sporting played its second of three straight road games in the space of nine days. With an average age of 25.1, the starting XI was Kansas City’s youngest for an MLS fixture since 2015 and the third youngest lineup for an MLS match in club history.

 Salloi was inches away from vaulting the visitors ahead in the seventh minute, punctuating an intricate attacking move through the central channel by settling Walter’s square pass near the top of the box and dragging a low shot marginally wide of the left post. The 25-year-old forward asked further questions of the Minnesota defense three minutes later, thieving the ball from Robin Lod and forcing Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair into a diving save with a dipping, long-range sledgehammer.

Minnesota responded by carving out its first chance at the 20-minute mark, talismanic playmaker Emanuel Reynoso spreading the ball wide left to Franco Fragapane for a cross that Bongokuhle Hlongwane poked well over the woodwork from 14 yards.

Not to be outdone, Sporting showcased more sizzling movement of their own near the half-hour juncture. Tzionis patiently held the ball up on the edge of the box before feeding Salloi, who pinged a clever one-touch pass into the path of Duke on the right side of the penalty area, but St. Clair advanced off his line to cut off the angle for a feasible shot and extinguish the threat.

An entertaining battle continued to unfold in end-to-end fashion, with Lod belting a first-time strike high off Reynoso’s corner kick in the 32nd minute. Not long later on the opposite side of the pitch, Tzionis’ searching cross eluded a pair of Minnesota defenders and fell to Duke, whose lunging effort skipped wide of St. Clair’s right-hand post.

Sporting were victimized by a case of bitter misfortune two minutes before intermission, falling behind 1-0. Minnesota defender Kemar Lawrence’s sliding pullback pass skipped across the face of goal, caroming off Fontas and Pulskamp and trickling over the goal line to give the Loons a fortuitous goal and a halftime edge. The own goal was Sporting’s first since Aug. 21, 2020, when Vermes’ men emerged 2-1 victors over Minnesota at Allianz Field. 

The Loons nearly doubled their cushion on another Sporting own goal seven minutes after the restart as Reynoso’s low, driven cross was poked goalward by Pierre, but Pulskamp made a crucial block and the visitors were spared their blushes. Seconds later, the ball was recycled from right to left and Loons striker Luis Amarilla snapped a header inches over the target.

Just as Russell entered the action as Sporting’s first substitute, Salloi offered a 57th-minute counterpunch by slipping past a defender and uncorking a 30-yard piledriver that screamed narrowly high. Tzionis was next to try his luck, cutting the ball onto his patented right boot and prompting St. Clair into a leaping save with a 25-yard laser.

Sporting found a deserved leveler in the 63rd minute as Minnesota went its 14th straight match without a shutout in all competitions. Half a dozen minutes after his introduction, Russell embarked on a galloping run down the right side before combining neatly with Pierre, maneuvering past his marker and sending a side-footed shot past St. Clair for his sixth goal of the regular season. Russell now has 51 goals in his Sporting career, fourth most in club history, and his 77 combined goals (46) and assists (31) in the regular season are third most in MLS since 2018. The 19-year-old Pierre, meanwhile, recorded his first career MLS assist on the play.

The Loons thought they had recaptured their one-goal advantage in the 66th minute when Fragapane fed Amarilla for a simple finish on the doorstep, but the offside flag was raised on Fragapane in the buildup.

In a swashbuckling finale to the contest, Pulskamp produced two phenomenal saves in the space of 30 seconds. He dropped left to cast aside an Amarilla header, then reacted brilliantly by palming the ball over the ball after a near-post corner kick was glanced goalward by Lod. Then in the 88th minute, Russell left multiple defenders in his wake by darting into the attacking third and firing low from the top of the penalty area. St. Clair was equal to the task, then gathered his footing to swat away a would-be rebound attempt from Salloi to keep the game all square at 1-1.

Sporting will look to complete an unbeaten three-game road swing on Sunday when the club visits another Western Conference rival in Real Salt Lake (8-6-6, 30 points) at Rio Tinto Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.

2022 MLS Regular Season | Match 21
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
Attendance: 19,657
Weather: 76 degrees and sunny

Sporting KC 1-1 Minnesota United FC
Score
1
2
F
Sporting Kansas City (5-11-5, 20 points)
0
1
1
Minnesota United FC (8-8-4, 28 points)
1
0
1

Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp; Kayden Pierre, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontas (C), Logan Ndenbe; Uri Rosell (Johnny Russell 57'), Remi Walter, Felipe Hernandez; Cam Duke, Daniel Salloi, Marinos Tzionis (Khiry Shelton 75')

Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Kaveh Rad, Ben Sweat, Robert Voloder, Jake Davis

Minnesota United FC: Dayne St. Clair; DJ Taylor, Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, Kemar Lawrence; Wil Trapp (C) (Jacori Hayes 83'), Robin Lod; Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Joseph Rosales 46'), Emanuel Reynoso, Franco Fragapane; Luis Amarilla

Subs Not Used: Tyler Miller, Oniel Fisher, Brent Kallman, Callum Montgomery, Justin McMaster, Abu Danladi, Nabi Kibunguchy

Scoring Summary:
MIN -- John Pulskamp (own goal) 43'
SKC -- Johnny Russell 6 (Kayden Pierre 1) 63'

Misconduct Summary:
MIN -- Wil Trapp (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 16'
SKC -- Andreu Fontas (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 47'
MIN -- DJ Taylor (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 53'
MIN -- Emanuel Reynoso (yellow card; delaying a restart) 76'

Match Statistics
Stat
SKC
MIN
Shots
12
10
Shots on Goal
5
3
Saves
4
4
Fouls
3
10
Offsides
0
8
Corner Kicks
3
5

Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
Assistant Referee: Nick Uranga
Assistant Referee: Cory Richardson
Fourth Official: Chris Ruska
VAR: Armando Villarreal
AVAR: Corey Parker