Sporting Kansas City (9-2-5, 32 points) staged a furious fightback on Saturday night to claim a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo (6-6-3, 21 points) at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park. Facing a two-goal deficit a halftime, the Western Conference leaders received a lifeline courtesy of Daniel Salloi’s 59th-minute tally before substitutes Diego Rubio and Khiry Shelton struck in the final five minutes to give Sporting KC all three points in a wild battle between bitter rivals.
Mauro Manotas’ first-half brace had given Houston a 2-0 advantage, but the hosts rallied in the second stanza to record their first home win over the Dynamo since 2011 and snap an eight-game winless run in the regular season series. Saturday’s epic encounter marked the sixth time in Sporting KC history that the club has come from two goals down to win an MLS match in regulation.
Rubio’s 85th-minute equalizer and Shelton’s 88th-minute winner helped extend Sporting KC’s unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions and gave the side a three-point cushion at the top of the Western Conference standings, one point behind Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United FC.
Manager Peter Vermes brandished four changes to Sporting KC’s lineup from last weekend’s defeat of FC Dallas in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, notably giving 22-year-old rookie center back Graham Smith his MLS debut. Midfielder Yohan Croizet, goalkeeper Tim Melia and forward Johnny Russell also reprised starting roles in the rematch of last year’s Western Conference Knockout Round, a 1-0 home win for the Dynamo that was decided in extra time.
Houston entered the night as the top-scoring team in the Western Conference and took just two minutes to land the first punch, punishing Sporting KC for a giveaway in their own half. Tomas Martinez pounced on the loose ball and played to Manotas, whose lethal near-post finish gave Sporting KC its earliest deficit in a regular season game since June 23, 2012 — exactly six years ago.
The visitors held a decisive early edge and almost doubled their lead three times before the half-hour mark, but Manotas, explosive winger Alberth Elis and center back Philippe Senderos all narrowly missed the target. Two minutes prior to intermission, Smith did brilliantly to slide and block a low drive from Elis, who had burst into the box and cut centrally onto his left foot.
Vermes’ side looked like a distinctly different team after the restart, immediately seizing the initiative in a bid to claw back into the game. A tantalizing cross from Gerso Fernandes bent just beyond the reach of an outstretched Salloi in the 48th minute, shortly before Russell and Fernandes both saw their respective attempts saved by increasingly busy Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis. The Dynamo gloveman produced his best save in the 54th minute, leaping left to palm Roger Espinoza’s diving header wide following a teasing delivery from Jaylin Lindsey.
Sporting KC’s incessant pressure finally paid dividends near the hour-mark when Salloi stabbed home his team-leading seventh goal in all competitions. Lindsey raced down the left flank and flashed another cross into the box that fell to Fernandes, whose initial effort was repelled by Willis. Russell kept the ball alive on the rebound, however, and Salloi was on hand to tuck low into the corner and ignite the historic comeback.
A breathless sequence unfolded immediately after Salloi’s goal in which Sporting KC nearly restored parity on multiple occasions. Croizet fired wide from a tight angle and had another shot blocked through traffic, while Salloi’s booming strike was bottled by Willis. Gerso then settled a wonderfully incisive pass from Espinoza and poked inches beyond the goalkeeper’s right-hand post in the 68th minute.
Russell thought he had pulled his side level in the 81st minute, but his 22-yard free kick curled around Houston’s four-man wall and skipped wide by the slimmest of margins.
Children’s Mercy Park burst into euphoric celebration on 85 minutes when Rubio, who had entered the match just 23 seconds earlier, finished off a breathtaking attack involving Salloi and Russell with an emphatic left-footed blast into the roof of the net. The 25-year-old Chilean has scored each of his three goals this season as a substitute, including his last-gasp equalizer in a 2-2 draw at the Colorado Rapids on March 24.
Shelton, whose cameo had begun in the 76th minute as a replacement for Fernandes, bagged the winner with 88 minutes on the clock, running onto Salloi’s driven cross and redirecting a shot low past Willis from the penalty spot. The goal was his second of the season and the first game-winner of his four-year MLS career, coming a minute after Houston midfielder Eric Alexander had been sent off for his second bookable offense.
Vermes’ men will ride a wave of momentum into next weekend as the club ventures north of the border to face the Montreal Impact (6-11-0, 18 points) at Stade Saputo. The cross-conference clash will kick off at 6 p.m. CT Saturday on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 16 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 83 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (9-2-5, 32 points)||0||3||3|
|Houston Dynamo (6-6-3, 21 points)||2||0||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Graham Smith, Jaylin Lindsey; Roger Espinoza (C), Ilie, Yohan Croizet (Diego Rubio 85); Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Gerso Fernandes (Khiry Shelton 76)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Amer Didic, Seth Sinovic, Kuzain, Kharlton Belmar
Houston Dynamo: Joe Willis; Adam Lundqvist, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Philippe Senderos, DaMarcus Beasley (C); Eric Alexander, Boniek Garcia; Alberth Elis (Leonardo 81), Tomas Martinez, Romell Quioto (Luis Gil 73); Mauro Manotas (Memo Rodriguez 91+)
Subs Not Used: Chris Seitz, Kevin Garcia, Jared Watts, Arturo Alvarez
HOU -- Mauro Manotas 7 (Tomas Martinez 5) 2
HOU -- Mauro Manotas 8 (DaMarcus Beasley 1, Romell Quioto 7) 45
SKC -- Daniel Salloi 5 (Johnny Russell 4) 59
SKC -- Diego Rubio 3 (Daniel Salloi 5, Johnny Russell 5) 85
SKC -- Khiry Shelton 2 (Daniel Salloi 6, Diego Rubio 1) 88
HOU -- Eric Alexander (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 22
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 27
HOU -- Joe Willis (yellow card; time wasting) 55
HOU -- Eric Alexander (red card - second yellow; unsporting behavior) 87
HOU -- Alejandro Fuenmayor (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 92+
|Shots on Goal||9||6|
Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referee: Logan Brown
Assistant Referee: Brian Dunn
Fourth Official: Nima Saghafi
VAR: Jon Freemon