Five years had elapsed since Children’s Mercy Park last hosted a playoff match—much longer than Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes and his players would have liked.
On Sunday, they did everything they could to make up for it by serving their fans more than 90 minutes of heart-pounding excitement in one of the greatest playoff games in club history.
Diego Rubio scored early, Ilie Sanchez buried a penalty kick and Daniel Salloi struck twice as Sporting KC won a 4-2 thriller over Real Salt Lake to claim a 5-3 aggregate victory in the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The six-goal slugfest goes down as Sporting KC’s second-highest scoring playoff match, surpassed only by a 5-2 loss to the LA Galaxy in the 2002 conference semifinals. It also sees Sporting KC tie a club record with four goals in a postseason game, having previously accomplished the feat in a 4-1 win over LA in the same 2002 playoff series.
Interestingly enough, the seven playoff matches in which Sporting KC has scored at least three times have all come at the conference semifinal stage.
SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS IN A POSTSEASON MATCH
|09/28/2002||vs. LA Galaxy||W 4-1||Conference Semifinals|
|11/11/2018||vs. Real Salt Lake||W 4-2||Conference Semifinals|
|09/26/1996||vs. FC Dallas||W 3-2||Conference Semifinals|
|09/24/2000||vs. Colorado Rapids||W 3-2||Conference Semifinals|
|09/26/2001||vs. Miami Fusion||W 3-0||Conference Semifinals|
|10/30/2004||vs. San Jose Earthquakes||W 3-0||Conference Semifinals|
|11/06/2013||vs. New England Revolution||W 3-1 (ET)||Conference Semifinals|
Sunday’s offensive explosion may have been rare by playoff standards, but it was simply a continuation of what Sporting KC has managed regularly during a record-setting 2018 campaign. Vermes’ side has now scored four or more goals in six MLS matches this season, surpassing the five such games in 1996 for most in team history.
Similarly, Sporting KC has amassed 77 goals across 39 competitive matches in 2018, blowing away the previous best of 71 set in 1996.
SPORTING KC: GOALS IN ALL COMPETITIONS
The finishing touches of Sunday’s momentous win came courtesy of Salloi, who notably became the first Homegrown Player in MLS history to score twice in a playoff match. His no-look finish into an empty net on 97 minutes was Sporting KC’s latest-ever postseason goal scored in regulation.
SPORTING KC: LATEST GOALS IN REGULATION
(MLS POSTSEASON HISTORY)
|11/11/2018||Daniel Salloi||97th||W 4-2 vs. Real Salt Lake|
|10/30/2004||Jack Jewsbury||92nd||W 3-0 vs. San Jose Earthquakes|
|09/26/1996||Preki||89th||W 3-2 vs. FC Dallas|
|10/08/1997||Preki||88th||L 3-2 at Colorado Rapids|
|10/29/2015||Kevin Ellis||87th||T 2-2 at Portland Timbers
(L 7-6 in PKs)
Salloi’s late strike ignited wild celebrations inside Children’s Mercy Park while also delivering a major sigh of relief. Sporting KC had been nursing a 3-2 lead in the late stages, and an RSL equalizer would have sent the visitors through to the conference finals on away goals.
The second half of Sunday’s contest was especially nail-biting, with Sporting KC and RSL trading blows in a breathless, back-and-forth spectacle. The hosts dominated en route to a 2-0 halftime lead, but an even battle would unfold over the final 45 minutes with both sides scoring twice.
The end result of a chaotic second half? For starters, those four second-half goals are tied for the second-most in MLS postseason history. Secondly, the 23 combined second-half shot attempts between both teams were the most ever in an MLS playoff game.
MOST SHOTS IN THE SECOND HALF
(MLS POSTSEASON HISTORY)
|Date||Shots||Matchup (final score)|
|11/11/2018||23||Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake (4-2)|
|10/15/1997||23||Columbus Crew SC vs. D.C. United (0-1)|
|10/30/2011||22||Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo (1-2)|
|11/15/2008||22||Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls (0-1)|
|09/30/2000||22||New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire (2-0)|
With two weeks separating the conference semifinals from the conference finals, Sporting KC fans now have time to catch their breath. In the meantime, Vermes’ men will begin to prepare for their Western Conference Championship encounter with the Portland Timbers. The first leg is set for Nov. 25 in Portland and the decisive second leg is set for Nov. 29 in Kansas City. Tickets for the latter match at Children’s Mercy Park, set to kick off at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, are now available at SeatGeek.com.
Sporting KC will have reason to feel confidence heading into the Portland matchup. In their last 10 regular season meetings against the Timbers, Sporting KC boasts a 5-1-4 record and a whopping eight shutouts.
SPORTING KC VS. PORTLAND TIMBERS
LAST 10 REGULAR SEASON MATCHES