Sporting Kansas City extended its unbeaten start to the 2017 campaign with a commanding 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Sunday at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
Veteran Seth Sinovic bagged his first career regular season goal in the sixth minute before Gerso and Dom Dwyer added second-half strikes of their own in a wire-to-wire performance. Colorado pulled one back through Kevin Doyle’s late penalty kick, but it wasn’t near enough to deny the hosts all three points in front of a national television audience on FS1.
The result extends Sporting Kansas City’s (2-0-3, 9 points) home unbeaten run to 12 regular season matches dating back to last June, tying an all-time club record, and snaps a five-game losing skid to the Rapids. Sporting KC remains one of three MLS teams without a loss through Week 6 and vaults to fourth place in the Western Conference, while Colorado slips to ninth.
Manager Peter Vermes opted for an unchanged starting lineup from Sporting KC’s 0-0 draw at Toronto FC on March 31, notably awarding Sinovic his 150th MLS appearance for the club (including playoffs). Captain Matt Besler, meanwhile, logged his 205th regular season appearance to pass Jimmy Conrad for fifth place on the team’s all-time charts. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber was sidelined for the second straight game as he continues to recover from a thigh strain.
A 90th straight sellout crowd at Children’s Mercy Park saw Sporting Kansas City ooze with attacking intent early and often. Within the second minute, Sinovic’s precise cross narrowly evaded Gerso on the edge of the six-yard box. Shortly thereafter, the left back would fire his hometown club ahead with a cathartic opening goal.
In the sixth minute, Gerso ran onto Graham Zusi’s wonderfully weighted pass down the right flank and flashed a dangerous cross into a packed penalty area. U.S. international goalkeeper Tim Howard got his glove to the ball, but Sinovic lashed home the rebound in emphatic fashion to ignite wild celebrations in the stadium. The goal was Sinovic’s first in his 158-game regular season career and his third for Sporting KC in all competitions.
High on confidence, Sinovic continued to shine down the left side. He deftly played Soony Saad into a pocket of space in the 17th minute, but the forward’s teasing ball across the face of goal eluded a finishing touch.
Colorado weathered a tumultuous opening and managed to carve out two huge opportunities on the stroke of halftime. Doyle’s looping delivery from the right endline was headed goalward by the leaping Dominque Badji, but Tim Melia sprawled low to make a stunning save from point-blank range. Seconds later, Marlon Hairston beat the offside trap and clipped in a square ball that was just beyond Badji’s sliding reach.
Sporting Kansas City reasserted control after intermission, first threatening in the 53rd minute when Saad’s free kick was headed back upfield by Micheal Azira. Zusi was well-positioned, however, and rifled a cleanly struck volley straight at Howard. Four minutes later, a dazzling spin move from Gerso sprung a counter attack that culminated with Saad cutting into the middle from the left side and sending a deflected effort a yard wide of Howard’s left-hand post.
The Rapids again succumbed to Sporting KC’s mounting pressure in the 58th minute as a quick, incisive surge forward led to Gerso’s maiden MLS goal. Dwyer began the break by swiveling past a defender at midfield and picking out Espinoza with yards of greenery to exploit down the right wing. The Honduran slid a perfect through ball into the box for Gerso, whose decadent left-footed poke from 12 yards beat Howard at the near post to make the score 2-0.
Gerso asked further questions of the Colorado defense in the 72nd minute, cleverly feeding Zusi down the right channel. The right back’s cutback pass was dummied by Dwyer and snapped goalward by Saad, but Howard saved comfortably. Sporting KC almost added to their lead twice within a matter of seconds in the 78th minute, as Besler’s low drive through traffic was blocked before Howard denied Dwyer from close range.
Forward Daniel Salloi became Sporting Kansas City’s fourth Homegrown Player to appear in a competitive match with his 83rd-minute cameo from off the bench. Two minutes later, the 20-year-old was involved in the buildup to his team’s third goal.
Lovely interplay from Salloi and Soni Mustivar resulted in the latter sending a ball down the left wing for Sinovic. The defender promptly capped a career night in style, sending an inch-perfect cross for Dwyer to steer into the back of the net. Dwyer opened his 2017 scoring account on the play, bagging his 53rd regular season goal and his 62nd for Sporting KC in all competitions.
Colorado salvaged a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time when Badji drew a foul on Mustivar inside the penalty area. Doyle dispatched the ensuing spot kick to deny Melia what would have been a sixth shutout in his last seven regular season appearances.
Sporting Kansas City will now embark on a daunting road swing against the top two teams in the Western Conference, traveling to face the first-place Portland Timbers (4-1-1, 13 points) next Saturday at 9:30 p.m. CT before visiting FC Dallas (3-0-1, 10 points) on April 22. Vermes’ men will return to Children’s Mercy Park on April 29 to renew their rivalry with Real Salt Lake, and tickets for that match can be secured at SeatGeek.com.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 5 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,249 (90th straight sellout)
Weather: 74 degrees and partly cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City (2-0-3, 9 points)||1||2||3|
|Colorado Rapids (1-2-1, 4 points)||0||1||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Jimmy Medranda (Soni Mustivar 74); Gerso, Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad (Daniel Salloi 83)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Kevin Ellis, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Cameron Porter, Latif Blessing
Colorado Rapids: Tim Howard (C); Eric Miller, Kortne Ford (Bobby Burling 83), Jared Watts, Mekeil Williams; Bismark Adjei-Boateng (Dillon Powers 73), Micheal Azira, Shkelzen Gashi (Caleb Calvert 68), Marlon Hairston, Dominique Badji; Kevin Doyle
Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Mike da Fonte, Sam Hamilton, Josh Gatt
|Shots on Goal||6||3|
SKC -- Ilie Sanchez (caution; unsporting behavior) 38
COL -- Eric Miller (caution; unsporting behavior) 84
COL -- Jared Watts (caution; unsporting behavior) 86
SKC -- Seth Sinovic 1 (unassisted) 6
SKC -- Gerso 1 (Roger Espinoza 1, Dom Dwyer 1) 58
SKC -- Dom Dwyer 1 (Seth Sinovic 1, Soni Mustivar 1) 85
COL -- Kevin Doyle 1 (penalty kick) 94+
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referee: Peter Manikowski
Assistant Referee: Nick Uranga
Fourth Official: Caleb Mendez