Heading into the season, a primary objective for Sporting Kansas City was to diversify its attack, adding more weapons on the flanks to supplement the consistent production of center forward Dom Dwyer.
More than halfway through the 2017 campaign, it’s safe to consider that objective a success.
Daniel Salloi’s maiden MLS goal on Saturday not only salvaged a point for Sporting Kansas City in a scrappy 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers. It continued a positive trend that has popped up throughout the year, giving the club and its supporters reason for optimism heading into the second half of the season.
Counting Salloi’s goal against Portland, Sporting Kansas City has now generated 13 goals from wingers across all competitions in 2017. Remarkably, that number already surpasses the 12 combined goals from wingers throughout all of 2016.
Newcomer Gerso has provided most of the scoring punch, but contributions from Salloi, Latif Blessing and Jimmy Medranda — who played most of 2016 as a left back — can’t be overlooked.
Salloi has scored in both matches he has played at least 45 minutes — including Open Cup competition — while Blessing’s brace was instrumental in a 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC. And with Diego Rubio returning from a long-term injury, Manager Peter Vermes has yet another attacking ace up his sleeve to make the front three even more multi-dimensional.
Sporting KC Wingers in 2016 (All Competitions)
Sporting KC Wingers in 2017 (All Competitions)
The tables above show the goal-scoring production from Sporting Kansas City’s wingers over the last two seasons. With several months still to play in 2017, it’s conceivable that this year’s crop more than doubles the goal total from wingers in 2016. (Note: Medranda has played significant minutes in central midfield, while Cameron Porter and Diego Rubio have been deployed primarily as center forwards).
Needless to say, this is an encouraging sign for a Sporting Kansas City side that appears better equipped for instances such as Saturday, when Dwyer scored on his debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team in a 2-1 friendly win over Ghana. The star striker may have been absent, but a supreme moment of quality from another forward — in this case Salloi — gave Sporting KC just what it needed to extend the club’s home unbeaten streak to 18 straight regular season matches.
“I don’t feel like it is a pressure, I feel like it is a great opportunity,” Salloi said postgame when asked if he felt nervous entering as a first-half substitute for the injured Gerso. “Since so many players are gone — unfortunately Gerso got hurt, I feel bad for him — but it’s an opportunity for me to show myself and play well and score goals and be a part of the team. So I don’t feel pressure. I’m happy that I could score and that we got the point, and we’ll keep working.”
If Sporting Kansas City had Salloi to thank for Saturday's goal, the team had Tim Melia to thank for holding the Timbers to just a single tally of their own. The Sporting KC goalkeeper stood tall to deny Portland's Diego Valeri from the penalty spot in the 74th minute, becoming the first player in club history to make three penalty kick saves in a single season. It's another feather in the cap for Melia during a phenomenal 2017 season thus far.
TIM MELIA: 2017 MLS REGULAR SEASON RANKS
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