With Dom Dwyer serving a one-game suspension, another Sporting Kansas City striker made the most of his opportunity on Saturday night.
Enter Latif Blessing, a 20-year-old spark plug who joined Sporting Kansas City ahead of the 2017 campaign after landing 2016 Ghana Premier League MVP honors. The diminutive Blessing struck in either half of Saturday’s entertaining 2-2 draw in Orlando, showcasing a knack for goal that put an end to the Lions’ perfect home record at the new Orlando City Stadium.
At 20 years and 134 days, Blessing became the youngest player in Sporting KC history to score twice in a competitive match. He also became the fifth player — and just the third since 1996 — to bag a brace in his first MLS start for the club.
SPORTING KC: YOUNGEST PLAYERS TO SCORE A BRACE
(ALL-TIME, ALL COMPETITIONS)
|Latif Blessing||20 years, 134 days||05/13/2017||T 2-2 at Orlando City SC|
|Matt McKeon||22 years, 240 days||05/22/1997||W 3-1 vs. Columbus Crew|
|Matt Taylor||22 years, 246 days||06/19/2004||W 3-1 at New England Revolution|
PLAYERS TO SCORE TWICE IN FIRST MLS START FOR SPORTING KC
|Digital Takawira||04/13/1996||W 3-0 vs. Colorado Rapids|
|Mo Johnston||05/02/1996||W 6-4 vs. Columbus Crew|
|Birahim Diop||08/21/2010||W 4-1 vs. New England Revolution|
|Omar Bravo||03/19/2011||W 3-2 at Chivas USA|
|Latif Blessing||05/13/2017||T 2-2 at Orlando City SC|
Blessing’s double highlighted a solid away performance from a Sporting Kansas City side that outshot Orlando 14-7 and forced Lions goalkeeper Joe Bendik to make six saves. Much of the visitors’ success was predicated on a possession-oriented approach that saw Manager Peter Vermes’ men enjoy 62 percent of the ball, making 534 passes compared to Orlando’s 327.
With the hosts content to drop numbers behind the ball and absorb pressure for extended periods, Sporting Kansas City racked up unprecedented passing numbers by the end of the night. At the forefront, the club’s 88.8 percent passing accuracy was its second-highest in the MLS regular season during the Opta era (2010-present).
SPORTING KC: HIGHEST PASSING ACCURACY IN AN MLS MATCH
(OPTA ERA, 2010-PRESENT)
|91.8%||05/10/2014||W 3-0 at Montreal Impact|
|88.8%||05/13/2017||T 2-2 at Orlando City SC|
|87.8%||09/01/2012||W 2-1 vs. Toronto FC|
|87.5%||08/01/2014||T 1-1 vs. Philadelphia Union|
|87.2%||0713/2013||W 3-0 vs. Toronto FC|
Further insight on Sporting KC’s precise movement of the ball was shed courtesy of Kurt Austin on Twitter. Since 2010, nine Kansas City players have completed more than 96 percent of their passes (minimum 30 attempts) in an MLS match. Three of whom accomplished the feat Saturday, as Jimmy Medranda, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler rarely put a foot wrong against the Lions.
A final point of statistical relevance goes to Besler, the Sporting KC captain who on Saturday logged his 250th appearance for his hometown club in all competitions. Besler is just the fifth player to reach the momentous milestone, joining the likes of Kerry Zavagnin, Nick Garcia, Davy Arnaud and Preki.
SPORTING KC: MOST APPEARANCES IN ALL COMPETITIONS (ALL-TIME)
|Matt Besler *||250||242|
* Still active on Sporting KC roster