Designated Players Erik Thommy and Alan Pulido scored first-half goals as Sporting Kansas City bounced into the win column for the first time this season by claiming a deserved 2-1 victory over first-place Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday at Lumen Field.
Thommy struck inside four minutes and Pulido gave his team a 2-0 cushion on Thommy’s assist at the half-hour mark, paving the way for Sporting to take three cathartic points back to Kansas City and condemn the Sounders to their first home defeat of the 2023 campaign. Seattle grabbed a goal back midway through the second half when Lodeiro converted from the penalty spot, but Sporting held on to secure its fourth regular season win in five visits to Lumen Field dating back to 2019.
With Sunday’s much-needed result in the bag, Sporting has now won six of the last nine meetings against the Sounders—a perennial power in the Western Conference—and prevailed in the Pacific time zone for the first time since posting a 2-1 triumph over Seattle on Oct. 23, 2021.
Manager Peter Vermes made two changes to Sporting’s starting lineup from last weekend as Andreu Fontas returned to central defense after serving his one-match suspension and Gadi Kinda earned his first start since 2021 in the attacking midfield role. Sunday was also the first time since Nov. 28, 2021, that Sporting had all three of its Designated Players on the field together as Kinda, Pulido and Thommy were all part of the XI alongside former DP Johnny Russell.
Shortly after testing Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei from long range within 50 seconds of kickoff, Thommy fired Sporting ahead by finishing off an incisive attack inside the penalty area. The German played Salloi into space down the right channel and continued his run into the box. Salloi sent a low cutback pass into the mixer for Kinda, whose deft touch near the penalty spot teed up Thommy to slot low into the left corner for his first goal of the season.
The strike snapped Seattle’s 453-minute home shutout streak to begin the campaign as Kinda picked up his first assist since Nov. 3, 2021, the same date he logged his last regular season start after missing all of 2022 through injury. Salloi tallied a secondary assist on the goal and has now scored or assisted on a team-high five goals in all competitions this year.
Vermes’ men remained on the front foot and asked further questions of Frei and the Sounders in the 16th minute. Russell's turf trimmer skipped through traffic and deflected inches wide of the far post before Salloi had his low drive saved at the near post.
The first half remained one-sided and Sporting doubled their advantage with conviction in the 31st minute. Turning from scorer to provider, Thommy spun around his defender 30 yards from goal and slipped a brilliant through ball into the path of Pulido, who was left with work to do as Frei advanced off his line. The Mexican forward made no mistake with the finish, tucking a shot low across the Seattle keeper and into the net for his first MLS goal since Aug. 14, 2021. Pulido now has 15 goals in 31 career regular season starts and Sporting have enjoyed four multi-goal games in their last five visits to Lumen Field dating back to 2019.
Tim Melia enjoyed a worry-free afternoon until the 34th minute, but Seattle forward Heber failed to beat the Sporting goalkeeper with a tame shot that resulted in a comfortable save. It was the final notable contribution of a turbulent first 45 minutes for the Sounders, who had conceded two first-half goals at home for the first time since falling 3-1 to Sporting on July 25, 2021.
The visitors showed no complacency entering the second period and went close on two occasions near the 55th minute. Fontas powered a header just over the crossbar off Logan Ndenbe’s cross before midfielder Remi Walter—landing his 53rd consecutive regular season start—sent a curling effort marginally high off a clever feed from Salloi.
The Sounders finally gained a foothold past the hour mark, winning a penalty kick when Ndenbe was whistled for fouling substitute Fredy Montero just inside the box. Lodeiro stepped to the spot and buried the ensuing attempt into the left corner for the 49th goal of his heralded MLS career, ending Sporting’s hopes of a shutout.
With momentum turning, Seattle went remarkably close to leveling terms in the 72nd minute. U.S. international forward Jordan Morris made a bursting run to the far post and appeared well-positioned to steer home off Albert Rusnak’s teasing cross, but 21-year-old midfielder Jake Davis—deputizing at right back for the third straight game in all competitions—intervened superbly by sliding to get an all-important touch on the ball and thwart Morris.
The dying embers of the game unfolded in breathless fashion. The hosts created danger in the 90th minute when Morris was set free down the left flank and uncorked an attempted cross that Melia was forced to palm over the crossbar. Shortly thereafter, Seattle defender Alex Roldan—who was fortunate not to be sent off for a second yellow card moments earlier—unleashed a wayward shot from the top of the box.
At the opposite end, Sporting could have restored their two-goal lead in the fifth minute of stoppage time if not for a spectacular bit of goalkeeping from Frei. With acres of space to exploit on the counterattack, Russell swung a precise diagonal delivery to late-game substitute Roger Espinoza. The veteran midfielder chested the ball down, cut past Cody Baker and fired a curling shot on target from 15 yards, but Frei produced the stop to keep the score at 2-1 in the final flashbulb moment of the contest.
Sporting will look to continue their winning ways on Wednesday with a trip to rivals Houston Dynamo FC in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32. Kickoff at Shell Energy Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with live streaming on the U.S. Soccer YouTube channel.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 11
Lumen Field | Seattle, Washington
Weather: 61 degrees and partly cloudy
Sporting Kansas City (1-7-3, 6 points)
Seattle Sounders FC (6-3-2, 20 points)
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas, Logan Ndenbe; Remi Walter, Erik Thommy (Roger Espinoza 76'), Gadi Kinda (Felipe Hernandez 46'); Johnny Russell (C), Alan Pulido (Graham Zusi 85'), Daniel Salloi (Khiry Shelton 78')
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Robert Castellanos, Robert Voloder, Stephen Afrifa, Marinos Tzionis
Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei; Reed Baker-Whiting (Cody Baker 57'), Yeimar Gomez Andrade, Jackson Ragen, Alex Roldan; Obed Vargas (Dylan Teves 84'), Albert Rusnak; Nico Lodeiro (C), Heber, Leo Chu (Fredy Montero 57'); Jordan Morris
Subs Not Used: Stefan Cleveland, Andrew Thomas, Xavier Arreaga, Ethan Dobbelaere, Sota Kitahara
SKC -- Erik Thommy 1 (Gadi Kinda 1, Daniel Salloi 2) 4'
SKC -- Alan Pulido 1 (Erik Thommy 1) 31'
SEA -- Nico Lodeiro 1 (penalty kick) 66'
SEA -- Alex Roldan (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 10'
SKC -- Remi Walter (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 12'
SKC -- Logan Ndenbe (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 65'
SEA -- Albert Rusnak (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 81'
SKC -- Johnny Russell (yellow card; time wasting) 90+5'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Victor Rivas
Assistant Referee: Lyes Arfa
Assistant Referee: Mike Rottersman
Fourth Official: Jeremy Kieso
VAR: Carol Anne Chenard
AVAR: Jeff Muschik