Sporting Kansas City (10-14-8, 38 points) suffered a 4-1 loss to St. Louis City SC (17-10-5, 56 points) on Saturday night at CityPark in St. Louis.
The hosts did their damage late in the second half, scoring four goals the space of 12 minutes as Sam Adeniran and Jared Stroud found the back of the net before Joao Klauss bagged a brace. Sporting striker Willy Agada came off the bench for a late consolation goal, burying a header for his second tally in as many games.
The result leaves Sporting three points below the playoff line in the Western Conference with two regular season matches still to play. The club’s penultimate regular season game will take place next Saturday, Oct. 7, as Sporting visits Real Salt Lake for an 8:30 p.m. CT kickoff with live coverage on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.
Manager Peter Vermes made three changes to the Sporting Kansas City lineup from last weekend’s 2-1 home win over Houston Dynamo FC. Striker Alan Pulido supplanted Agada after missing one match with a quad contusion, while winger Daniel Salloi replaced suspended captain Johnny Russell. In the midfield, veteran Felipe Gutierrez entered in place of Gadi Kinda.
Battling the Western Conference leaders in a hostile environment at sold-out CityPark, Sporting were first to threaten inside three minutes as center back Dany Rosero met Gutierrez’s corner kick and steered a strong header on frame that St. Louis goalkeeper Roman Burki dropped low to save. Shortly thereafter, the visitors broke forward on the counter with Pulido spreading the ball wide left to Salloi, who lifted his off-balance shot over the crossbar.
Sporting had veteran goalkeeper Tim Melia to thank in the seventh minute as St. Louis went worryingly close to surging ahead. Wide midfielder Indiana Vassilev, who had scored twice inaugural meeting between the clubs this season, pounced on a Sporting defensive miscue and hammered a left-footed side volley on target, but Melia reacted brilliantly by touching the ball over the bar to keep the game goalless.
Melia was called into action again in the 12th minute, blocking a venomous blast from Aziel Jackson at the top of the box before Rosero ushered clear. The fleeting chance preceded another close shave as Adeniran thrashed a shot marginally wide of the near post and into the side netting on 21 minutes.
The hosts were thwarted again at the half-hour mark as Melia delivered heroics once more. Finding the ball amidst a scramble in the box off a corner kick, Klauss swiveled and struck from near the penalty spot, prompting Melia to reach low for a one-handed, world-class stop on the goal line. Only a minute later, Klauss was on the receiving end of another guild-edged chance but spurned the look as he directed an incoming cross inches wide.
A breathtaking spectacle continued to unfold as Sporting nearly drew first blood in the 34th minute. A flowing move into the attacking third culminated with Gutierrez playing diagonally to Salloi, who did wonderfully to shimmy past two defenders on the left side of the box before firing low at close range. Burki was equal to it, however, as the German palmed the shot aside and allowed St. Louis to extinguish the danger.
The second half opened with Gutierrez and the all-action Erik Thommy slamming long-range strikes high and wide as Sporting began to enjoy a greater share of possession. Vermes’ men were then desperately unlucky not to score near the 60th minute as a chaotic sequence left spectators gasping. An unrelenting siege on the St. Louis goal culminated with Salloi settling the ball on the right side of the penalty area and unleashing a thunderous blast that smacked off the crossbar and bounced downward to the goal line before the hosts managed to clear their lines.
Burki spared his team’s blushes again in the 66th minute as both goalkeepers continued to stand on their heads. Salloi squared up his defender and clipped a clever cross to the opposite side of the box for left back Logan Ndenbe, whose diving header to the near post was touched onto the woodwork by the outstretched Burki.
At the opposite end, Kansas City native Niko Gioacchini almost put his hometown club to the sword with a quick impact from off the bench, but his lunging attempt amidst traffic was saved smartly by Melia before his follow-up effort was blocked.
Adeniran and Stroud notched quickfire goals for St. Louis in the 73rd and 75th minutes, respectively. Adeniran nodded home the breakthrough off a looping Eduard Lowen free kick, powering a header into the top right corner. Sporting had yet to recover when St. Louis doubled their advantage, Stroud picking up a loose ball and slotting low past Melia from the top of the box.
Things went from bad to worse for Sporting in the 80th minute when Lowen was afforded space to deliver a ball to the back post for Klauss to apply a simple finish. The Brazilian-born striker then secured his brace with a well-taken strike into the top left corner in the 85th minute.
Agada salvaged Sporting a goal in second-half stoppage time, snapping a header inside the far post off a decadent cross from Salloi. Agada has now scored in consecutive matches, while Salloi has seven goals and seven assists during his 2023 regular season campaign.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 32
CityPark | St. Louis, Missouri
Weather: 81 degrees and clear
Sporting Kansas City (10-14-8, 38 points)
St. Louis City SC (17-10-5, 56 points)
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero (Robert Castellanos 86'), Andreu Fontas, Logan Ndenbe; Nemanja Radoja (Gadi Kinda 77'), Erik Thommy (Willy Agada 86'), Felipe Gutierrez (Remi Walter 67'); Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido (C), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Robert Voloder, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, Marinos Tzionis
St. Louis City SC: Roman Burki (C); Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, Joakim Nilsson, Anthony Markanich (Kyle Hiebert 90'); Njabulo Blom, Indiana Vassilev (Jared Stroud 64'), Eduard Lowen (Tomas Ostrak 90'), Aziel Jackson (Niko Gioacchini 65'); Joao Klauss (Nokkvi Thorisson 89'), Sam Adeniran
Subs Not Used: Ben Lundt, Akil Watts, Rasmus Alm, Celio Pompeu
STL -- Sam Adeniran 8 (Eduard Lowen 12) 73'
STL -- Jared Stroud 5 (unassisted) 75'
STL -- Joao Klauss 9 (Eduard Lowen 13) 80'
STL -- Joao Klauss 10 (Jared Stroud 5) 85'
SKC -- Willy Agada 3 (Daniel Salloi 7) 90+3'
STL -- Anthony Markanich (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 41'
STL -- Tim Parker (yellow card; dissent) 87'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Assistant Referee: Diego Blas
Fourth Official: Alexis Da Silva
VAR: Rosendo Mendoza
AVAR: TJ Zablocki