What a week it was for Sporting Kansas City.
Entrenched in a tight battle for Western Conference playoff seeding, Sporting KC notched a pair of resounding road wins over Vancouver Whitecaps FC and FC Dallas to take first place and clinch a home playoff game at Children’s Mercy Park for the first time since 2013.
Knowing they can finish no worse than fourth in the West, Sporting KC will now prepare for a monumental Decision Day showdown with second-place LAFC at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated or 3:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, and tickets for the Fan Appreciation Match remain available via SeatGeek.com.
A victory — and almost certainly a draw — against LAFC on Sunday would seal the No. 1 seed for Sporting KC heading into the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Click here to catch up on the full seeding scenarios ahead of Decision Day.
But before we cast our attention on the final weekend of the regular season, in which 11 MLS matches will kick off simultaneously at 3:30 p.m. CT, let’s look back on what must be deemed one of the best two-game road swings in Sporting KC history.
Prior to this week, Sporting KC had won back-to-back regular season road matches by multiple goals just once. Manager Peter Vermes’ side won 3-1 in Montreal on July 4, 2012, and topped Columbus by a 2-0 scoreline 10 days later.
This week, however, was the first time ever that Sporting KC has won consecutive away games by three-goal margins. A 4-1 defeat of Vancouver was followed by Sunday's 3-0 blanking of FC Dallas.
Remarkably enough, Kansas City has won only 10 MLS regular season road matches by three-goal margins in team history. Three have come over the last five weeks, helping Sporting KC set a team record with 31 away goals.
SPORTING KC ROAD WINS BY THREE OR MORE GOALS
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|04/29/2000||at Colorado Rapids||W 5-0|
|08/16/2000||at San Jose Earthquakes||W 3-0|
|04/21/2001||at Columbus Crew SC||W 3-0|
|05/14/2005||at Columbus Crew SC||W 4-0|
|06/12/2011||at FC Dallas||W 4-1|
|05/10/2014||at Montreal Impact||W 3-0|
|09/12/2014||at Chivas USA||W 4-0|
|09/15/2018||at San Jose Earthquakes||W 5-1|
|10/17/2018||at Vancouver Whitecaps FC||W 4-1|
|10/21/2018||at FC Dallas||W 3-0|
Sporting KC’s offensive salvo put an exclamation point on what has become a record-setting season for the club. As detailed in today’s web article on SportingKC.com, the 2018 squad boasts all-time bests in goals, road goals, assists, shots, chances created and big chances created.
Consequently, the space below is saved for notable individual accomplishments to emerge from Sunday’s triumph in Frisco, Texas. And we begin with the man who rescued Sporting KC on numerous occasions, offering a prompt reminder of why he was named the 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Tim Melia, who finished the day with five saves, pushed aside Reto Ziegler’s penalty kick in the 49th minute to keep the visitors ahead 1-0. In doing so, Melia recorded his third saved penalty of the season and his sixth since the start of 2017, both the most in MLS. Astonishingly, Melia has saved six of the 12 penalties he has faced over the last two seasons combined. He also leads the league during that same timeframe with 23 clean sheets.
MOST PENALTIES SAVED IN MLS REGULAR SEASON
Now it’s time to give plaudits to Sunday’s goal scorers, starting with 22-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Daniel Salloi. The forward fired his team ahead on the brink of halftime, recording his 10th goal of the MLS campaign and his 12th in all competitions. The Hungarian international now has 19 combined goals (12) and assists (7) in all competitions this season, most among MLS Homegrown Players in 2018.
MOST GOALS + ASSISTS IN ALL COMPETITIONS
(MLS HOMEGROWN PLAYERS IN 2018)
Salloi’s opener was followed by a close-range Roger Espinoza strike in the 64th minute. The play gave Espinoza his second MLS goal of the year, a new career-high for the Honduran, and marked the first time in club history that 13 Sporting KC players have bagged multiple goals in the same regular season.
The victory was signed, sealed and delivered in the 87th minute when Johnny Russell’s spot kick moved him level with Salloi for the team lead at 10 league goals and 12 overall. The successful conversion also made Russell the fourth Kansas City player ever to reach double-digits in both goals and assists in a single regular season
SPORTING KC: DOUBLE-DIGIT GOALS AND ASSISTS
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)
Lastly, we would be remiss not to mention the newest set of milestones reached by captain Matt Besler. The Kansas City native became Sporting KC’s first player to reach 300 appearances in all competitions as well as 250 regular season starts. Besler landed MLS Team of the Week recognition for his performance along the backline, anchoring his side to its 13th clean sheet of 2018, one behind the league lead.