Sporting Kansas City (6-2-2, 20 points) opened a four-point lead at the top of the Western Conference with a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids (2-4-2, 8 points) on Saturday night at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park. Daniel Salloi’s strike in the 16th minute separated the sides as Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes claimed his 150th career coaching win for the club in all competitions.
Saturday’s result sets the stage for a mouthwatering cross-conference clash on Wednesday when Sporting KC visits Atlanta United FC in a matchup of the top two teams in the Supporters’ Shield standings. Kickoff at world-class Mercedes Benz Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO.
Vermes made one change to the starting lineup from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to the New England Revolution. Cristian Lobato was deployed at left back, earning his first start since March 4, while Jimmy Medranda slotted into the midfield in place of Yohan Croizet. Veteran Roger Espinoza notably logged his 200th regular season appearance for the club, becoming the ninth player in team history to reach the milestone.
The hosts asserted early control and landed their first punch with 16 minutes on the clock. Besler, making his 250th MLS appearance on his very own bobblehead night, clipped a long ball over the top that fellow center back Ike Opara cushioned back across goal. Khiry Shelton’s diving header from close range hit the near post — as did the immediate rebound that caromed off his trailing heel — but Salloi was on hand to smash the loose ball high into the roof of the net for his second goal of the campaign. The quick-hitting play also marked the first time that Colorado had conceded a first-half goal this season.
Salloi almost bagged his second of the night on the half-hour mark, running onto Shelton’s flick-on header and unleashing a piledriver from the left side of the box that rattled the woodwork. The opportunity came shortly after Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard saved a venomous blast from Johnny Russell at the top of the penalty area.
Colorado’s forays into the attacking third were few and far between, though the visitors did threaten in the 35th minute when Dominique Badji, the club’s leading scorer, cut centrally and dragged a deflected shot narrowly wide. Shortly thereafter, Tommy Smith nodded over the bar following a pinpoint cross from Jack Price.
Opara had been involved in Sporting KC’s first goal and nearly doubled his team’s advantage four minutes before halftime. Salloi redirected a lovely diagonal pass from Medranda across the face of goal for Opara, whose lunging attempt was blocked by Smith.
Vermes’ men created a bevy of chances during a dominant second half in which Sporting KC totaled 16 shots. Russell was a constant menace in and around the box, teeing up Salloi for a near miss in the 48th minute before nutmegging defender Danny Wilson and forcing Howard into a reflex save three minutes later. Howard rescued the Rapids again in the 66th minute, diving low to his right to smother Graham Zusi’s low drive off a clever cutback from Russell.
Russell was denied again on 69 minutes, settling Medranda’s cutback pass at the top of the box and cutting past a defender only to see Wilson clear his strike off the goal line.
The Rapids now have just one win to show from their last 22 road games, but head coach Anthony Hudson’s side came remarkably close to snatching an equalizer against the run of play with 10 minutes remaining. A mishap along the Sporting KC backline allowed Badji to race through on goal with only goalkeeper Tim Melia to beat, but the forward’s side-footed effort fizzed inches wide as the Children’s Mercy Park faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The dying embers of the match saw Salloi record his seventh and eighth shot attempts of the evening, the first of which was an impudent 20-yard chip that beat Howard but was headed off the line by Smith. In stoppage time, Shelton and Ilie ignited a dazzling and incisive attack that played Salloi into space, but his strike curled harmlessly beyond the far post.
The official watch party for Wednesday’s game against Atlanta United FC will take place at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, featuring $6 Till Vodka cocktails and an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic draft beer.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 10 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 78 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (6-2-2, 20 points)||1||0||1|
|Colorado Rapids (2-4-2, 8 points)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Cristian Lobato (Yohan Croizet 71); Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Jimmy Medranda (Seth Sinovic 81); Johnny Russell (Gerso Fernandes 88), Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Emiliano Amor, Jaylin Lindsey, Diego Rubio
Colorado Rapids: Tim Howard (C); Deklan Wynne, Danny Wilson, Tommy Smith; Kip Colvey (Dillon Serna 79), Sam Nicholson (Yannick Boli 67), Jack Price, Enzo Martinez, Edgar Castillo; Jack McBean (Joe Mason 46), Dominique Badji
Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Axel Sjoberg, Micheal Azira, Sam Hamilton
SKC -- Daniel Salloi 2 (unassisted) 16
SKC -- Ike Opara (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 10
COL -- Jack McBean (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 13
COL -- Edgar Castillo (yellow card; dissent) 52
COL -- Dominique Badji (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 89
|Shots on Goal||7||2|
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referee: Peter Balciunas
Assistant Referee: Felisha Mariscal
Fourth Official: Fotis Bazakos
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.