Sporting Kansas City stayed atop the Western Conference standings with a 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact on Saturday at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
Winger Gerso scored his team-leading sixth goal of the campaign to give Sporting Kansas City (7-4-5, 26 points) the lead in the 24th minute, but Montreal (4-4-5, 17 points) restored parity with just eight minutes remaining thanks to substitute Matteo Mancosu, whose composed finish denied the hosts a seventh straight home victory and snapped Sporting KC’s 441-minute shutout streak inside Children’s Mercy Park.
Despite the draw, Sporting Kansas City pushes its club-record home unbeaten streak to 17 matches dating back to last season and sits two points clear of the second-place Portland Timbers in the Western Conference.
A reshuffled Sporting Kansas City lineup included three changes from last weekend’s 3-0 thrashing of Minnesota United FC. Homegrown center back Kevin Ellis stepped in for captain Matt Besler — who has joined teammate Graham Zusi on the U.S. Men’s National Team for World Cup qualifying — while midfielder Roger Espinoza and forward Dom Dwyer also returned to the fold, replacing Latif Blessing and Soony Saad, respectively.
Sporting Kansas City’s 800th match in all competitions and 400th at home began brightly, as Benny Feilhaber’s cleanly struck long-range blast forced Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush into a diving stop after just five minutes.
Dom Dwyer, who entered the fixture with an astounding nine goals in six previous appearances against Montreal, was thwarted by the woodwork in the 15th minute. Gerso galloped down the right flank and whipped a teasing cross into a crowded area that Bush punched only as far as Dwyer, whose venomous left-footed volley rattled the crossbar. Seth Sinovic’s rebound attempt was blocked amidst traffic, letting the visitors temporarily off the hook.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia made his first of six saves — one shy of tying his regular season career-high — halfway through the opening period when Dominic Oduro found a pocket of space shoot from 22 yards. Sporting Kansas City would then jump back on the front foot and draw first blood.
Ilie’s first career MLS assist was the result of a beautifully weighted long ball over the top to Gerso, who muscled off a challenge from Kyle Fisher and struck low across Bush and into the left corner. The Bissau-Guinean has scored all six of his goals this year in the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting KC has outscored opponents 17-3.
Feilhaber’s 25-yard free kick was saved by Bush on the half-hour mark before, just before the Impact showed signs of life when Nick DePuy latched onto Chris Duvall’s cross and steered a one-time shot wide of the target. Ignacio Piatti set up Marco Donadel a minute later, but the Italian midfielder tattooed the ball high into the stands from 30 yards.
Dwyer was denied by Bush twice in the space of a minute late in the first half. A near-post effort from the left side of the box was parried behind before another low effort from the opposite side was effectively smothered.
Melia produced a superb save five minutes after the restart, palming Piatti’s snapshot onto the post to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead. At the opposite end, Gerso accelerated down the wing and served a delicious cross intended for Dwyer, but Hassoun Camara intervened crucially to extinguish the danger.
An incisive attack from Sporting Kansas City nearly resulted in the game-sealing goal with 15 minutes left, but Saad Abdul-Salaam’s low delivery from the right edge of the box narrowly eluded multiple attackers before rolling over the opposite endline for a goal kick. At the opposite end, Oduro raced onto a through ball from Donadel and slotted low past Melia, but the offside flag was up and the goal was disallowed.
Montreal wouldn’t be denied a second time, however, and drew level in the 82nd minute when Mancosu ran onto a stray pass from Soni Mustivar and chipped over the onrushing Melia for his third goal of the year.
Duval would receive a straight red card in the 86th minute for a rash challenge on Espinoza, setting the stage for a frenetic final few minutes in which Sporting Kansas City pushed desperately for a go-ahead goal. The winner nearly came in the first minute of stoppage time as Montreal defended deep with hopes of snatching a result. Feilhaber’s low drive was blocked by Duvall, but Espinoza recycled the ball back into a crowded penalty area from the left flank. The ball fell kindly to Gerso, but his off-balance attempt flashed marginally above the cross bar. On the final play of the match, Espinoza’s tantalizing cross flashed across the face of goal without a finishing touch, prompting referee Robert Sibiga to blow the full-time whistle.
The Western Conference leaders now turn their attention to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where they will face Minnesota United FC in Wednesday’s Round of 32 matchup at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com. Following the Open Cup clash, Vermes’ men will embark on a two-game road swing in the state of California, traveling to face the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday before visiting LA Galaxy on June 24.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 16 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 20,334 (95th straight sellout)
Weather: 85 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (7-4-5, 26 points)||1||0||1|
|Montreal Impact (4-4-5, 17 points)||0||1||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza (C), Ilie, Benny Feilhaber; Gerso, Dom Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda (Soni Mustivar 80)
Subs Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Amer Didic, Igor Juliao, Cameron Porter, Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi
Montreal Impact: Evan Bush; Chris Duvall, Kyle Fisher, Hassoun Camara, Victor Cabrera, Daniel Lovitz; Dominic Oduro (Matteo Mancosu 77), Calum Mallace, Marco Donadel, Ignacio Piatti (C) (Michael Salazar 92+); Nick DePuy (Andres Romero 71)
Subs Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Wandrille Lefevre, Adrian Arregui
|Shots on Goal||5||7|
MTL -- Ignacio Piatti (caution; unsporting behavior) 46+
MTL -- Matteo Mancosu (caution; dissent) 84
MTL -- Chris Duvall (ejection; serious foul) 86
SKC -- Gerso 6 (Ilie 1) 24
MTL -- Matteo Mancosu 3 (unassisted) 82
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referee: Jeff Muschik
Assistant Referee: Kyle Longville
Fourth Official: Nima Saghafi