Daniel Salloi’s superb goal helped Sporting Kansas City secure a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park. The 20-year-old Homegrown forward opened his MLS scoring account in the 60th minute as Sporting Kansas City (8-4-7, 31 points) remained atop the Western Conference standings and extended the club’s home unbeaten streak to 18 MLS matches.
Diego Valeri fired Portland (7-7-5, 26 points) ahead with a stunning strike on 26 minutes, but the midfielder was denied his brace in the second half when Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia saved the Argentine’s penalty kick to keep the scoreline deadlocked and push Sporting Kansas City’s undefeated run to seven matches in all competitions.
Three days removed from a 2-0 road win over the Houston Dynamo in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Manager Peter Vermes made a pair of changes to Sporting Kansas City’s lineup. Benny Feilhaber bounced back from a lower-foot injury to replace Jimmy Medranda in midfield — earning his 150th career start for Sporting Kansas City in all competitions — while Soony Saad stepped in for Cameron Porter at center forward. Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer and Graham Zusi missed out due to national team commitments, as all three players started Saturday for the U.S. in a 2-1 friendly win over Ghana.
Neither side was able to conjure a legitimate opportunity until Valeri handed the visitors a 1-0 lead. The talisman exploited open space and accelerated into the attacking third before rifling a 25-yard piledriver into the roof of the net for his team-best 10th goal of the campaign. The goal marked the first time Sporting Kansas City had trailed at home since Sept. 18, 2016, a spell of 876 minutes that spanned 11 MLS matches.
The hosts suffered a further blow in the 35th minute when the club’s top goal scorer Gerso fell to turf after tangling with Portland defender Alvas Powell. The winger was promptly forced to exit the match with a shoulder injury, giving Salloi his chance to impact proceedings from off the bench.
Center back Ike Opara entered Saturday with four goals in his last six matches and came agonizingly close to bagging his fifth in the 52nd minute. A brilliant set piece delivery from Feilhaber was swung into the six-yard area, where Opara rose above the rest only to steer his header inches wide of the right post.
Portland wouldn’t survive a second time, however, as a lovely linkup restored parity just after the hour mark. Salloi made a run to the far post and settled an inch-perfect diagonal ball from Roger Espinoza with the outside of his right boot before coolly finishing high into the net with his same foot, becoming the seventh-youngest MLS goal scorer in Sporting KC history.
A capacity crowd at Children’s Mercy Park burst to life with Salloi’s equalizer, setting the stage for a thrilling final 30 minutes. Both sides traded ambitious long-range attempts before the 70-minute mark, as Portland’s Darren Mattocks and Espinoza both narrowly missed the target with left-footed screamers.
Drama would amplify in the 74th minute when referee Alan Kelly awarded Portland a penalty kick after he deemed Melia to have tripped Fanendo Adi inside the box. The Sporting KC goalkeeper cast aside the controversial nature of the call and saved Valeri’s ensuing spot kick, standing his ground to block a shot that was aimed straight down the middle. Melia now leads MLS with three penalty kick saves this season, in addition to ranking first in shutouts (nine), goals against average (0.68) and save percentage (81.9).
Less than a minute after Melia’s heroic stop, the Timbers spurned a glorious chance to retake the lead as Ben Zemanski’s precise cross was headed high by an unmarked Lawrence Olum. At the opposite end, Salloi dragged a shot marginally wide after Latif Blessing did well to navigate a congested 18-yard area.
Sporting Kansas City will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Thursday for the club’s final MLS match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup break, facing the Philadelphia Union (5-7-4, 19 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the interconference clash are on sale at SeatGeek.com.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 19 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 20,933 (96th straight sellout)
Weather: 85 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (8-4-7, 31 points)||0||1||1|
|Portland Timbers (7-7-5, 26 points)||1||0||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Benny Feilhaber (Jimmy Medranda 80); Gerso (Daniel Salloi 35), Soony Saad (Diego Rubio 59), Latif Blessing
Subs Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Erik Palmer-Brown, Colton Storm, Soni Mustivar
Portland Timbers: Jake Gleeson; Alvas Powell (Zarek Valentin 76), Ben Zemanski, Lawrence Olum, Vytautas Andriuskevicius; Sebastian Blanco (Victor Arboleda 92+), Roy Miller, Dairon Asprilla (Darren Mattocks 60), Diego Valeri (C), Darlington Nagbe; Fanendo Adi
Subs Not Used: Jeff Attinella, Chance Myers, Marco Farfan, Jeremy Ebobisse
|Shots on Goal||1||3|
POR -- Fanendo Adi (caution; unsporting behavior) 38
SKC -- Latif Blessing (caution; unsporting behavior) 44
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; unsporting behavior) 45
SKC -- Kevin Ellis (caution; unsporting behavior) 85
POR -- Diego Valeri 10 (Sebastian Blanco 4) 26
SKC -- Daniel Salloi 1 (Roger Espinoza 3) 60
Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referee: Matthew Nelson
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Juan Guzman