Recap: Ilie and Johnny Russell strike as Sporting KC earns 2-2 tie with Toronto FC

Ilie Sanchez and Johnny Russell scored second-half goals to help Sporting Kansas City to a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

Toronto (4-10-4, 16 points) surged ahead on a 25th-minute strike from Jonathan Osorio, but Sporting KC (9-4-6, 33 points) fought back after the restart as Ilie buried a 57th-minute penalty and Russell slotted home four minutes later to record his 100th professional goal. The defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions restored parity through Jordan Hamilton in the 69th minute, resulting in a stalemate that extended Sporting KC’s unbeaten run against Toronto to nine games.

Saturday’s draw lifts Sporting KC within two points of first-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference, while Toronto remains eight points below the playoff line in the East.

With his team playing its third game in eight days and Roger Espinoza and Daniel Salloi serving one-game suspensions, Manager Peter Vermes made five changes to the Sporting KC lineup. Captain Matt Besler and 18-year-old Jaylin Lindsey returned to the backline, while Russell, Gerso Fernandes and Diego Rubio reclaimed starting roles in a three-pronged attack. Elsewhere, goalkeeper Tim Melia and center back Ike Opara notably logged their 100th regular season appearances for Sporting KC.

Eager to atone for road defeats in their previous two matches, Sporting KC seized initiative with a pair of early scoring chances. Homegrown defender Jaylin Lindsey’s teasing cross was headed narrowly wide by Russell before a thumping long-range effort from Graham Zusi forced Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono into his first of three saves on the night.

The visitors drew first blood against the run of play on a well-worked attack ignited by Toronto talisman Sebastian Giovinco. The diminutive Italian spread the ball left to Justin Morrow, whose low delivery from the wing was turned into the net by Osorio. Morrow collected his second assist of the season on the play, while Osorio reached a new MLS career-high with his sixth goal of the campaign.

Saturday marked the third straight home game in which Sporting KC trailed at halftime before rallying after intermission. Croizet was the first to threaten on 51 minutes, unleashing an audacious volley from distance off a Zusi corner kick that fizzed inches over the bar.

Fernandes earned Sporting KC’s penalty kick near the hour mark, running onto an incisive through ball from Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal and drawing a foul on Toronto defender Eriq Zavaleta. Ilie stepped to the spot and sent the ensuing attempt low into the left corner past an outstretched Bono, tallying his third successful penalty of 2018.

The hosts had their tails up and needed just four minutes to find the go-ahead goal. Rubio clipped a lovely ball in behind the Toronto defense for Russell to collect and finish low past Bono. The 28-year-old Scot is now tied for the Sporting KC lead with six MLS goals and has now scored 100 times as a professional.

Sporting KC’s lead lasted just eight minutes. Substitute Nicolas Hasler won the ball 40 yards from goal and picked out Hamilton, who bagged his second goal in as many games with an excellent curler past Melia.

Defender Emiliano Amor was summoned in the 73rd minute as a replacement for the injured Opara and instantly impacted the game, floating a long ball over the top for Fernandez, but Bono produced another stop. Shortly thereafter, substitute Khiry Shelton — who exited through injury in the 80th minute — nodded marginally wide off a delicious cross from Zusi.

Zusi was the creator of another massive opportunity in the 85th minute, bending in a corner kick that Lindsey glanced off the crossbar with his head. The final chance of the night fell to Giovinco with 90 minutes on the clock, but his right-footed hit was smothered by Melia.

Mid-July will see Sporting KC hit the road for two consecutive away games, beginning with a high-profile matchup against the New York Red Bulls (10-4-2, 32 points) next Saturday at Red Bull Arena. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus as Vermes’ men visit one of the best sides in the Eastern Conference. Sporting KC will then continue their defense of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup when they travel to face rivals Houston Dynamo in the quarterfinals on July 18.

2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 19 of 34

Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 21,064
Weather: 84 degrees and sunny

Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (9-4-6, 33 points) 0 2 2
Toronto FC (4-10-4, 16 points) 1 1 2

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara (Emiliano Amor 73), Matt Besler (C), Jaylin Lindsey; Yohan Croizet, Ilie, Kuzain; Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio (Khiry Shelton 71 [Kharlton Belmar 80]), Gerso Fernandes

Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Seth Sinovic, Graham Smith, Colton Storm

Toronto FC: Alex Bono; Gregory van der Wiel, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow, Liam Fraser (Tosaint Ricketts 67); Marky Delgado (Nicolas Hasler 67), Michael Bradley (C), Jonathan Osorio; Jordan Hamilton (Ayo Akinola 88), Sebastian Giovinco

Subs Not Used: Clint Irwin, Ashtone Morgan, Jay Chapman, Ryan Telfer

Scoring Summary:
TOR -- Jonathan Osorio 6 (Justin Morrow 2, Sebastian Giovinco 8) 25
SKC -- Ilie 3 (penalty kick) 57
SKC -- Johnny Russell 6 (Diego Rubio 2) 61
TOR -- Jordan Hamilton 2 (Nicolas Hasler 3) 69

Misconduct Summary:
TOR -- Eriq Zavaleta (caution; unsporting behavior) 56
TOR -- Liam Fraser (caution; unsporting behavior) 59
SKC -- Graham Zusi (caution; unsporting behavior) 81
SKC -- Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (caution; unsporting behavior) 94+

Shots 18 8
Shots on Goal 5 3
Saves 1 3
Fouls 10 12
Offsides 2 3
Corner Kicks 8 1

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Assistant Referee: Adam Wienckowski
Assistant Referee: Richard Gamache
Fourth Official: Dave Gantar
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic