Sporting Kansas City (4-1-2, 14 points) went four points clear at the top of the Western Conference following a 2-2 draw with Seattle Sounders FC (0-3-1, 1 point) on Sunday afternoon at frigid Children’s Mercy Park.
Ilie’s 34th-minute penalty kick gave Sporting KC the lead before Will Bruin bagged Seattle’s first goal of the season on the stroke of halftime to level proceedings. The Sounders surged ahead on Cristian Roldan’s strike in the 73rd minute, but Graham Zusi restored parity five minutes later as Sporting KC extended its unbeaten run to six matches and kept Seattle winless in 2018.
Sunday’s affair was the coldest regular season home game in Kansas City history, with temperatures at 32 degrees when the clubs kicked off before a nationally televised audience on ESPN. The 2-2 stalemate marked just the second time in 17 regular-season meetings that Sporting KC and Seattle combined to score more than three goals.
The hosts, one week removed from a 2-0 road win over the LA Galaxy, fielded an unchanged lineup as Sporting KC’s top goal scorer Felipe Gutierrez missed his second straight match with a hip ailment. His absence did little to prevent a strong start from Manager Peter Vermes’ men on Sunday, as Johnny Russell was first to threaten with a clever touch past a defender before volleying high in the 14th minute.
Seven different players have scored a goal for Sporting KC this season, and Khiry Shelton nearly became the eighth with 23 minutes on the clock. The forward collected a cutback pass from Daniel Salloi only to see his close-range effort repelled by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Shortly thereafter, Russell attacked a looping cross from Yohan Croizet and sent a powerful header marginally wide of Frei’s right-hand post.
Referee Drew Fischer awarded Sporting KC a penalty kick near the half-hour mark when Russell accelerated into the box from the right wing and was chopped to the turf by Nouhou Tolo. Ilie stepped to the spot to bury the ensuing penalty high into the roof of the net, recording his second goal of the campaign.
Seattle manufactured an important equalizer on the final play of the half, but not before Bruin’s header off a Nicolas Lodeiro free kick rattled the crossbar and was subsequently cleared by Ike Opara in second-half stoppage time. On the play that followed, Sounders defender Chad Marshall flicked Lodeiro’s long throw-in goalward where Bruin was lurking to slot home from point-blank range. The strike broke Seattle’s 315-minute scoreless drought to start the 2018 campaign and ended Sporting KC’s shutout streak at 306 minutes dating back to March 24.
A tense second half produced its first flashpoint moment on 51 minutes when defender Jimmy Medranda cut the ball onto his weaker right foot and forced Frei into a diving stop at the near post. Seven minutes later, the Sounders thought they had won a penalty kick when Jordan McCrary’s low cross from the right wing ricocheted off Medranda’s leg and struck his elbow. Upon further review prompted by Video Assistant Referee Geoff Gamble, Fischer overturned the call and Seattle was denied its penalty kick opportunity.
Both teams survived close scares with 20 minutes remaining. Opara latched onto a Zusi set piece and snapped a header straight at Frei before Alex Roldan — the younger brother of Cristian and making his first career MLS start — unleashed a long-range blast that skimmed inches wide of the woodwork.
The visitors went in front on 73 minutes with a fluid attack downfield following a Sporting KC giveaway. Bruin raced onto Alex Roldan’s long ball and picked out Cristian Roldan at the top of the box, allowing the U.S. international to rifle home from 18 yards and temporarily silence the Children’s Mercy Park faithful.
Seattle’s 2-1 lead lasted just five minutes, as Sporting KC’s outside backs combined for an impressive equalizer in the 78th minute. Zusi settled Medranda’s high-arching diagonal pass on the right channel, burst into the box and chipped Frei from four yards out to tally his second goal of year and his 31st for the club in all competitions.
Vermes’ side went agonizingly close to securing all three points in the 83rd minute, but Ilie’s header off Zusi’s lovely set piece delivery lacked the direction to beat Frei.
Sporting KC will put their six-match unbeaten streak on the line Friday when third-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3-3-1, 10 points) visits Children’s Mercy Park for an 8 p.m. CT kickoff on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus. Tickets for the game are available via SeatGeek.com and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a Tim Melia bobblehead courtesy of match sponsor Mark One Electric.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 7 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 32 degrees and light snow flurries
|Sporting Kansas City (4-1-2, 14 points)||1||1||2|
|Seattle Sounders FC (0-3-1, 1 point)||1||1||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Jimmy Medranda; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Yohan Croizet (Cristian Lobato 74); Johnny Russell (Gerso Fernandes 85), Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Emiliano Amor, Jaylin Lindsey, Seth Sinovic, Diego Rubio
Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei; Jordan McCrary, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Nouhou Tolo; Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan, Handwalla Bwana (Osvaldo Alonso 68), Nicolas Lodeiro (C), Alex Roldan (Magnus Wolff Eikrem); Will Bruin
Subs Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Tony Alfaro, Jordy Delem, Henry Wingo, Lamar Neagle
SKC -- Ilie 2 (penalty kick) 34
SEA -- Will Bruin 1 (Chad Marshall 1, Nicolas Lodeiro 1) 48+
SEA -- Cristian Roldan 1 (Will Bruin 1, Alex Roldan 1) 73
SKC -- Graham Zusi 2 (Jimmy Medranda 1) 78
SEA -- Jordan McCrary (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 24
SEA -- Cristian Roldan (yellow card; dissent) 44
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 53
SEA -- Osvaldo Alonso (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 85
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 97+
|Shots on Goal||8||3|
Referee: Drew Fischer
Assistant Referee: Corey Rockwell
Assistant Referee: Jeffrey Greeson
Fourth Official: Dave Gantar
VAR: Geoff Gamble