Sporting Kansas City (3-8-4, 13 points) exploded for three second-half goals to secure a thrilling 4-1 comeback win over the Portland Timbers (4-7-4, 16 points) on Sunday afternoon at sun-drenched Children’s Mercy Park.
After Franck Boli gave the Timbers an early lead, Erik Thommy restored parity with a long-range masterclass in the 33rd minute. The hosts dominated from there, surging ahead on a 66th-minute tally from Daniel Salloi and a 68th-minute own goal before Felipe Hernandez added icing to the cake with a slick goal in stoppage time.
In an identical scoreline from Portland’s most recent trip to Children’s Mercy Park last August, Sporting improved to 4-0-4 in the club’s last eight regular season home meetings against the Timbers and secured its first comeback victory since prevailing 2-1 at CF Montreal on July 9, 2022.
The convincing performance also saw three Sporting veterans hit notable regular season milestones. Salloi moved atop Kansas City’s all-time chart with his 14th career game-winning goal, Graham Zusi moved to sixth in MLS history with his 29th career game-winning assist, and Roger Espinoza passed Benny Feilhaber for fourth in club history with his 44th assist. Zusi and Espinoza joined Hernandez and left back Tim Leibold as substitutes who entered after halftime and contributed either a goal and an assist.
Sunday’s momentous triumph will give Sporting a healthy dose of momentum entering Wednesday’s home clash against fourth-place FC Dallas (6-3-5, 23 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the midweek matchup are available at SeatGeek.com and the game will be shown live on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.
Four changes adorned Sporting’s lineup from last weekend, including both outside back positions as 21-year-old Jake Davis and 23-year-old Logan Ndenbe returned to the fray. Thommy replaced fellow midfielder Remi Walter, whose back injury forced him to miss his first regular season match after a run of 56 consecutive starts, the second-longest streak by a field player in club history. Further up the field, winger Marinos Tzionis filled in for Johnny Russell, who was a late scratch after aggravating his hamstring earlier in the week.
An energetic Sporting start yielded the game’s first shot inside four minutes as forward Daniel Salloi, the only player to start in all 15 MLS matches this season, cannoned a strike from distance marginally high and wide of the target. Shortly thereafter, the Timbers drew first blood off the foot of Boli, who slotted low past goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh from 12 yards after Claudio Bravo’s powerful header into the box was only partially cleared by Sporting center back Andreu Fontas.
McIntosh did well to extinguish danger in the 28th minute, diving low to cut out a cross from Santiago Moreno intended for Boli on the edge of the six-yard area, before the hosts emerged with possession and cash an equalizer five minutes later.
Thommy pulled Sporting level in spectacular solo fashion. Receiving a pass from Tzionis near the corner flag, the German turned centrally and dribbled around the perimeter of the box with a defender marking him tightly. With the ball on his weaker left foot, Thommy carved out just enough space 25 yards from goal to unleash a jaw-dropping strike into the far left corner that jolted Children’s Mercy Park into celebration. The 28-year-old has scored in each of his last two home appearances against Portland and has two goals and two assists in Sporting’s five league matches this month. Tzionis was also credited with an assist on the play, the first of his MLS career.
Tzionis nearly found the back of the net himself in the 41st minute, settling a clever square pass from Salloi and rifling inches wide of the left post at the top of the box. Manager Peter Vermes’ men then thought they had taken a 2-1 lead in the 43rd when Salloi slammed home the rebound off a Tzionis header that was saved by Portland keeper Aljaz Ivacic, but VAR Jorge Gonzalez instructed head referee Rubiel Vazquez to take a second look. The goal was promptly disallowed as Sporting defender Dany Rosero was penalized for an off-the-ball foul in the play’s buildup.
Boli spurned two more scoring chances on the cusp of halftime, snapping his point-blank header wide off a Dairon Asprilla cross before having his near-post effort saved by the leaping McIntosh on the break.
The second period began vibrantly as Salloi and Portland Designated Player Evander forced saves with impressive strikes from well outside the box. Salloi was on the end of another major opportunity in the 61st minute, swiftly combining with Pulido on the breakaway before his side-footed attempt was saved by Ivacic’s outstretched foot.
Sporting pushed in front on a mouthwatering team goal midway through the second stanza. Leibold, who had subbed in four minutes earlier, floated a delectable cross-field diagonal ball to Zusi, who settled the ball and sent a driven pass across the face of goal. Salloi was on hand to smash into a gaping net for his third goal of the campaign and what ultimately stood as a club record-breaking 14th match-winner in the regular season. Salloi has scored or assisted on half of Sporting’s 16 goals in all competitions this year (four goals, four assists), while Zusi notched the 74th assist of his heralded regular season career.
Barely recovered from falling behind, Portland smarted from a self-inflicted wound two minutes later. Espinoza lofted a brilliant long ball over the top for Salloi, who held his run and slipped a decadent through ball into the path of forward Alan Pulido. The Mexican striker smartly rounded Ivacic and sustained a sliding challenge from retreating Portland defender Larrys Mabiala, who inadvertently prodded the ball into his own net to make the score 3-1.
The Timbers tried to scrap their way back in the dying embers of the contest, with McIntosh doing well to advance off his line and deny Jaroslaw Niezgoda at close range, but suffered further bleeding in the 93rd minute. Seconds after Leibold stormed into the box and had a shot saved, Espinoza squeezed an inch-perfect through ball to Hernandez, who poked low under Ivacic for his first goal since last September. Sporting has now scored four goals in four of its last 12 MLS home matches dating back to last August, a trend the club will hope continues on Wednesday when FC Dallas visits the Soccer Capital of America.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 15
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 83 degrees and sunny
Sporting Kansas City (3-8-4, 13 points)
Portland Timbers (4-7-4, 16 points)
Sporting Kansas City: Kendall McIntosh; Jake Davis (Graham Zusi 46'), Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas, Logan Ndenbe (Tim Leibold 62'); Nemanja Radoja, Erik Thommy (Felipe Hernandez 77'), Gadi Kinda (Roger Espinoza 62'); Marinos Tzionis, Alan Pulido (C) (Khiry Shelton 77'), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Robert Castellanos, Chris Rindov, Stephen Afrifa
Portland Timbers: Aljaz Ivacic; Juan Mosquera, Larrys Mabiala, Zac McGraw, Claudio Bravo (Sebastian Blanco 81'); Cristhian Paredes, Diego Chara (C); Santiago Moreno (Yimmi Chara 46', Marvin Loria 53'), Evander, Dairon Asprilla (Jaroslaw Niezgoda 81'); Franck Boli (Nathan Fogaca (81')
Subs Not Used: David Bingham, Eric Miller, Justin Rasmussen, Noel Caliskan
POR -- Franck Boli 3 (unassisted) 8'
SKC -- Erik Thommy 2 (Marinos Tzionis 1) 33'
SKC -- Daniel Salloi 3 (Graham Zusi 1, Tim Leibold 1) 66'
SKC -- Own Goal (Larrys Mabiala) 68'
SKC -- Felipe Hernandez 1 (Roger Espinoza 1) 90+3'
SKC -- Andreu Fontas (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 47'
SKC -- Nemanja Radoja (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 72'
SKC -- Khiry Shelton (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 85'
POR -- Marvin Loria (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 89'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Rubiel Vazquez
Assistant Referee: Brian Poeschel
Assistant Referee: Stephen McGonagle
Fourth Official: Ismir Pekmic
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
AVAR: Jozef Batko