Sporting Kansas City completed a perfect month of August with their fourth straight shutout victory on Saturday night, receiving second-half strikes from Yohan Croizet and Diego Rubio in a 2-0 win over Minnesota United FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
Johnny Russell assisted on both goals as Croizet fired the hosts ahead in the 47th minute and Rubio doubled the advantage 15 minutes later. The result lifts Sporting KC within a point of first-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference and gives the club four straight shutout wins in a single regular season for the first time in club history.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia collected his MLS-leading 11th clean sheet of the year on Saturday, pushing Sporting KC’s shutout streak to 376 minutes dating back to July 28. Manager Peter Vermes’ men have ended the month of August with a 4-0-0 record, outscoring opponents 8-0 during the dominant stretch, and registered four consecutive MLS clean sheets for the first time since 2013.
Russell accounted for the lone change to Sporting KC’s starting lineup, replacing Daniel Salloi in a three-pronged attack alongside Rubio and opposite winger Gerso Fernandes. In defense, captain Matt Besler notably made his 292nd competitive appearance for Sporting KC to pass current assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin for the most in club history.
A pedestrian first half saw neither side threaten until added time, although Graham Zusi and Seth Sinovic narrowly missed the mark from long range in the 17th and 23rd minutes, respectively. Minnesota went closest to breaking the deadlock on the stroke intermission, but Melia produced a fantastic save to deny Mason Toye from close range before Rubio’s defensive header extinguished the danger.
Croizet entered as a halftime substitute and scored just 94 seconds into his cameo. The active Russell settled a pass from Rubio and drove centrally, laying the ball off to Croizet at the top of the box. The Frenchman took a touch to gain separation and struck low inside the near post for his second goal of the campaign, marking the 13th time a substitute has scored for Sporting KC in 2018.
Melia, who totaled six saves over the final 45 minutes and eight in the match, smothered a blast from Angelo Rodriguez on the hour mark shortly after Toye hammered high on an open look inside the penalty area. The Loons would rue the miss moments later when Sporting KC landed their second punch.
Sinovic picked out an open Russell, who exploited space in the central channel and laid the ball off to Rubio, who cut onto his right foot and slotted low past Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth for his fourth goal in as many games and his seventh MLS tally of the season. The play also gave Russell his eighth league assist and his team-best 10th in all competitions.
Minnesota entered Saturday with a league-worst 1-10-1 road record, but gave a fair account of themselves over the final half-hour. Melia made a slew of saves in the late stages, thwarting Rodriguez, Abu Danladi and Romario Ibarra in quick succession before preserving his shutout streak with an excellent stop in the 92nd minute as Danladi swiveled and shot near the penalty spot.
Riding high on momentum, Sporting KC will now prepare for a mouthwatering Western Conference matchup next Saturday against red-hot Seattle Sounders FC (10-9-5, 35 points) at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders are currently on a club-record six-game winning streak and sit two points below the playoff line in the West. Kickoff in Seattle is set for 3 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and UniMas with a live stream on Twitter at @UnivisionSports.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 25 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 86 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (13-6-6, 45 points)||0||2||2|
|Minnesota United FC (9-15-2, 29 points)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza (Gianluca Busio 83), Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez (Yohan Croizet 46); Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio (Krisztian Nemeth 72), Gerso Fernandes
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Andreu Fontas, Jaylin Lindsey, Daniel Salloi
Minnesota United FC: Bobby Shuttleworth; Francisco Calvo (C), Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman; Collen Warner, Miguel Ibarra (Romario Ibarra 76), Ibson, Rasmus Schuller, Eric Miller (Jerome Thiesson 33); Angelo Rodriguez, Mason Toye (Abu Danladi 66)
Subs Not Used: Matt Lampson, Wyatt Omsberg, Collin Martin, Maximiniano
SKC -- Yohan Croizet 2 (Johnny Russell 7, Diego Rubio 5) 47
SKC -- Diego Rubio 7 (Johnny Russell 8, Seth Sinovic 2) 62
MIN -- Francisco Calvo (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 50
MIN -- Michael Boxall (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 52
|Shots on Goal||4||8|
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referee: Adam Wienckowski
Assistant Referee: Kevin Klinger
Fourth Official: Fotis Bazakos
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez