Beyond The Box Score: Historic second-half eruption vaults Sporting KC past Vancouver

Peter Vermes was dissatisfied at halftime, and fairly so.

On one of the biggest nights of Sporting Kansas City’s season, Vermes felt his team was lacking intensity and desire. Vancouver Whitecaps FC held a 1-0 lead on a 42nd-minute goal despite the visitors dictating terms for extended periods of the first half at BC Place.

Faced with the reality of dropping to fourth place in the Western Conference with a loss, Sporting KC needed to find a cutting edge, a killer instinct, a ruthless appetite in front of goal.

The game remained that way for the first 15 minutes after the restart. Then, in one of the biggest single-game plot twists of Sporting KC’s 2018 campaign, Vermes’ side caught fire.

Down 1-0 heading into the final half hour, Sporting KC left the turf at BC Place with wide smiles, a momentous 4-1 victory under their belts. So what was the catalyst for change in a win that lifted the club to second place in the West?

“I just told the guys at halftime, there was no tactics, it was more of ‘Look, you have to have the desire in this game. You have to have the intensity,’” Vermes said postgame. “And it was different in the second half. We had the desire and intensity.”

That desire and intensity translated into one of the most historic halves in club history. And by the time the final whistle blew with more than 97 minutes on the clock, Sporting KC had pulled within a single point of Western Conference leaders FC Dallas.

Those two teams will meet at 4 p.m. CT Sunday at Toyota Stadium in the penultimate game of the 2018 season. Whoever wins—if there is a winner—will be in the driver’s seat to finish first in the West entering Decision Day on Oct. 28, when Sporting KC hosts third-place LAFC in what will surely be a high-stakes finale.

But before we look ahead, let’s look back on what made the second half of Wednesday’s contest so special.

This was the first time ever that Sporting KC scored four away goals in one half.

Sporting KC had erupted for four goals in a single half on six previous occasions in the club’s MLS history. All six of those games took place at home, making Wednesday an all-time first. Yohan Croizet kick-started the rally with a superb 62nd-minute equalizer, Daniel Salloi bagged a late brace and 16-year-old Gianluca Busio opened his MLS scoring account. More on Salloi and Busio in just a minute.

This was the first time ever that Sporting KC substitutes amassed four combined goals and assists in an MLS match.

Go ahead and call Vermes’ latest performance a managerial masterstroke. He used each of his three subs near the hour mark, deploying Busio, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton with hopes of changing the game’s complexion. Those three would play a part in each of Sporting KC’s last three goals.

Shelton assisted Salloi’s go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute, Russell connected with Busio to make it 3-1 and Shelton set up Salloi yet again on the game’s final play. Sporting KC leads MLS this season with 12 goals from substitutes, equaling their total from the previous three regular seasons combined.

This was the first time ever that Sporting KC Academy products combined for three goals in an MLS match.

Sporting KC’s professional pathway begins in the Academy, where Salloi and Busio both competed before turning professional. Salloi fired his side ahead with eight minutes left, Busio extended the advantage in the 94th minute, and Salloi added gloss to the scoreline with a 97th-minute tally at a stunned BC Place. Thanks to their late salvo, Sporting KC Academy products had combined to produce three goals for the first time.

This was the first time ever that a Sporting KC Homegrown Player bagged an MLS brace.

Congratulations are in order for Salloi, who moved level with Johnny Russell for the team scoring lead on nine MLS goals and 11 in all competitions.

This was the first time ever that Sporting KC received an MLS goal from a 16-year-old.

Further congratulations are in order for Busio, who on Wednesday became the second-youngest goal scorer in MLS history behind one Freddy Adu. At 16 years and 142 days, Busio has bagged his first MLS goal at the same age most kids begin driving a car.

After facing FC Dallas on Sunday in Frisco, Texas, Sporting KC will return to Children's Mercy Park to host LAFC in their regular season finale on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. CT. Click here to get your tickets for the monumental Decision Day clash as Sporting KC holds its Fan Appreciation Match with an afternoon full of supporter-friendly festivities. Countless prizes will be up for grabs exclusively through the Sporting KC Uphoria app, including the following:

  • A pair of 2019 Sporting KC season tickets
  • Player-autographed merchandise
  • VIP experiences
  • 50 percent off authentic jerseys
  • Discount offers at SportingStyle and concessions
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