Recap: Diego Rubio nets winner as Sporting KC prevails 1-0 in Houston

Sporting Kansas City (10-6-6, 36 points) snapped a five-game winless skid with a resolute 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo (7-9-6, 27 points) on Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Forward Diego Rubio came off the bench to score the 74th-minute winner — his MLS-leading fourth goal as a substitute this season — on a brilliant assist from midfielder Gianluca Busio, who at 16 years and 68 days became the third-youngest player to start a match in league history and the second-youngest to record an assist.

The result gave Sporting KC their first MLS win at Houston since 2014 and their first shutout since June 9, vaulting the team into third place in the Western Conference standings. Saturday also saw Manager Peter Vermes reach a significant milestone at the helm, coaching his 302nd regular season match for Sporting KC to break the all-time MLS record for most games coached at a single club.

The newest installment of a fierce rivalry between Sporting KC and Houston hit a boiling point as referee Chris Penso issued three red cards to Dynamo players and eight total yellow cards between the teams. Houston head coach Wilmer Cabrera was also dismissed at halftime of a hotly contested battle that resulted in Sporting KC’s 100th regular-season away win.

Busio’s inclusion as a starter was one of three lineup changes to a Sporting KC side that fell 3-2 to FC Dallas last weekend. Yohan Croizet assumed the center forward role for the first time this season, replacing Diego Rubio, and 18-year-old Jaylin Lindsey made way for veteran left back Seth Sinovic. Busio was filling in for Roger Espinoza, who served a one-game suspension on Saturday for caution accumulation. Elsewhere, forward Daniel Salloi logged his 50th appearance for the club in all competitions, while defender Graham Zusi earned his 200th career regular-season start.

Croizet’s first attacking contribution came just two minutes into the game, as the Frenchman powered into the final third and clipped a pass over the top for Gerso Fernandes to chase. Fernandes corralled the bouncing ball with his back to goal and tried an acrobatic flick over his shoulder, the effort floating narrowly over the crossbar.

The complexion of the match changed drastically in the 14th minute when Penso showed a straight red card to Houston defender Alejandro Fuenmayor, who recklessly clattered into Busio’s back on an aerial challenge. The call was checked and subsequently upheld by Video Assistant Referee Daniel Radford, meaning Sporting KC would have a man advantage for the rest of the night.

Fuenmayor’s ejection was the most egregious act during a chippy first half-hour that brandished four yellow cards. The visitors threatened twice during this period, first in the 18th minute when Salloi played a clever diagonal ball to an open Fernandes whose side-footer failed to beat Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis. Eight minutes later, Busio went agonizingly close to becoming the second-youngest goal scorer in MLS history when his 22-yard sledgehammer caromed off the right post with Willis firmly beaten.

The final moments of the first half produced chances for both sides. Ilie Sanchez received a pass from Busio and uncorked a low drive from distance that fizzed marginally wide before Houston’s Romell Quioto cut centrally from the left wing and just missed the target from the top of the box. On the stroke of intermission, Felipe Gutierrez ran onto a through ball from Fernandes and had his near-post attempt saved by Willis’ outstretched foot.

Sporting KC enjoyed a decisive edge in possession and territory throughout the second period, but a plucky Houston defense limited opportunities despite Fuenmayor’s absence. The hosts almost surged ahead against the run of play in the 62nd minute when Quioto broke free on a counter-attack and set up Alberth Elis, whose breakaway shot under duress from Ilie forced Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia into a splendid kick save. The pivotal stop was Melia’s brightest moment en route to his eighth clean sheet of 2018.

Vermes’ men gradually gained a foothold, with Graham Zusi firing inches wide in the 73rd minute off a layoff from Rubio. The close shave would come just seconds before Sporting KC drew first blood.

In the 74th minute, Zusi was afforded a pocked of space just inside the attacking half and sent an incisive path through to Busio near the top of the box. The 16-year-old showcased his undeniable quality with an excellent one-touch pass through to Rubio, who finished low past Willis into the far left corner for his fourth MLS goal of 2018 and his second in as many games against Houston.

Petulance marred the late stages of Saturday’s encounter. Houston’s meltdown reached its climax when Elis and Darwin Ceren were both sent off for violent conduct in second-half stoppage time, not long before the final whistle.

Riding a newfound wave of momentum, Sporting KC will play for their second straight road win next Saturday when they visit expansion side Los Angeles Football Club (10-5-6, 36 points) for the first time at Banc of California Stadium. Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.

2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 22 of 34

BBVA Compass Stadium | Houston, Texas
Attendance: 14,675
Weather: 78 degrees and partly cloudy

Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (10-6-6, 36 points) 0 1 1
Houston Dynamo (7-9-6, 27 points) 0 0 0

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Felipe Gutierrez, Ilie Sanchez, Gianluca Busio; Gerso Fernandes, Yohan Croizet (Diego Rubio 61), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Amer Didic, Jaylin Lindsey, Kuzain, Cristian Lobato, Kharlton Belmar

Houston Dynamo: Joe Willis; Andrew Wenger, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Leonardo, Adam Lundqvist; Boniek Garcia (C), Darwin Ceren, Tomas Martinez (Adolfo Machado 20); Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas (Ronaldo Pena 72), Romell Quioto
Subs Not Used: Chris Seitz, Arturo Alvarez, Eric Alexander, Luis Gil, Memo Rodriguez

Scoring Summary:
SKC -- Diego Rubio 4 ( Gianluca Busio 1, Graham Zusi 4) 74

Misconduct Summary:
HOU -- Romell Quioto (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 4
HOU -- Alejandro Fuenmayor (red card; serious foul) 14
HOU -- Alberth Elis (yellow card; dissent) 15
HOU -- Boniek Garcia (yellow card; dissent) 19
SKC -- Seth Sinovic (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 22
HOU -- Joe Willis (yellow card; dissent) 70
HOU -- Ronaldo Pena (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 80
SKC -- Diego Rubio (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 92+
HOU -- Darwin Ceren (red card; violent conduct) 94+
HOU -- Alberth Elis (red card; violent conduct) 98+
HOU -- Leonard (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 100+

Shots 14 9
Shots on Goal 4 4
Saves 4 3
Fouls 16 12
Offsides 2 1
Corner Kicks 4 3

Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referee: Apolinar Mariscal
Assistant Referee: Mike Rottersman
Fourth Official: Alejandro Mariscal
VAR: Daniel Radford