GOAL: Salloi secures the match-winning goal

The 2018 season has been one to remember for Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi.

After showing glimpses of excellence in 2017, the 22-year-old Homegrown forward and Sporting KC Academy product has taken off this year with a team-best 15 goals in all competitions.

Salloi, who bagged four goals during Sporting KC’s three-game winning streak to end the regular season, took his red-hot form into the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with a scintillating performance in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park.

The pulsating victory propels Sporting KC in the Western Conference Championship, where they will visit the Portland Timbers in leg one on Nov. 25 before hosting the decisive second leg on Nov. 29 at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the latter match, Sporting KC’s last home game of 2018, are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.

Sunday’s six-goal thriller featured an ensemble cast of Sporting KC standouts, but Salloi stole the headlines with a lethal first-half strike and a no-look finish deep into second-half stoppage time that sent 20,000 fans into joyous pandemonium.

In doing so, Salloi became the first Homegrown Player in Major League Soccer history to score twice in a playoff match. He also joined an exclusive club of three previous Sporting KC players who have recorded a postseason brace: Miklos Molnar (2000), Davy Arnaud (2004) and Teal Bunbury (2011).

Salloi’s second goal in the 97th minute sealed the victory and gave Sporting KC a massive sigh of relief after Real Salt Lake had applied heavy pressure in search of an equalizer. Had RSL tied the game at 3-3, they would have advanced on away goals and Sporting KC’s season would have ended.

“We felt that we were a little down and knew a goal could win the series for them,” Salloi said postgame in reference to the final 30 minutes of the match. “We tried to push ourselves a little bit more and a little bit more. This is a championship mentality. I think this team has it. You need the fans and a little bit of luck and that’s how you advance.”

As Sporting KC’s top marksman in 2018, Salloi has also demonstrated playmaking ability as an increasingly dynamic winger in Manager Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 setup. The Hungarian international has tallied seven assists to go with his 15 goals, and his 22 combined goals and assists in all competitions are the most among MLS Homegrown Players this season.

Salloi and Sporting KC will aim to carry their championship mentality into the conference finals versus Portland. Sporting KC are 5-1-4 with a remarkable eight shutouts in their last 10 regular season meetings against the Timbers. This year, the clubs played to a 0-0 draw on June 9 at Providence Park before Sporting KC posted a 3-0 triumph on Aug. 18 at Children’s Mercy Park.