Johnny Russell preseason goal - Sporting KC at Phoenix Rising FC
Olivia Brestal

Recap: Sporting earns 3-2 aggregate victory in preseason showdown with Phoenix Rising FC

Sporting Kansas City earned a 3-2 aggregate victory over Phoenix Rising FC on Thursday, prevailing over the course of two 75-minute scrimmages at Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex in Tempe, Arizona.

Johnny Russell tucked home in the 56th minute to give Sporting KC a 1-0 advantage before Graham Zusi’s exquisite free kick on 72 minutes made the score 2-1. Sixteen-year-old Tyler Freeman rounded out the scoring early in the second scrimmage to ensure that Sporting stayed perfect during its 2019 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy.

Krisztian Nemeth nearly opened the scoring twice within the first half-hour, dragging a low effort inches wide of the post before seeing a looping header saved by outstretched Phoenix goalkeeper Zac Lubin. At the opposite end, Tim Melia produced a superb save of his own when he dove to push aside Junior Flemmings’ strike from the top of the box.

Zusi and Devin Vega traded near misses near the 50th minute before Russell landed the first punch of the night. The Scottish international seized upon a Phoenix giveaway, drove into the penalty area and slotted low past Lubin for his third goal of the preseason campaign.

Phoenix equalized in the 70th minute when trialist and former MLS veteran Lamar Neagle nodded a header past Melia to end Sporting’s preseason shutout streak at 459 minutes. Only two minutes later, however, Zusi restored his side’s advantage with a brilliant 22-yard free kick that bent over a four-man wall and nestled into the corner of the net.

Fireworks exploded less than a minute into the second scrimmage. Freeman, a 16-year-old Sporting KC Academy product, settled a pass from Roger Espinoza and sent a deflected shot past Phoenix’s Carl Woszczynski for his second preseason goal.

Kevon Lambert grabbed one back for Rising FC in the 28th minute of the second scrimmage, providing the final score on a brisk evening in the desert.

Sporting will conclude their 2019 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy, on Wednesday when they face fellow MLS outfit Houston Dynamo at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona. The Western Conference rivals will battle in a pair of split-squad friendlies that kick off concurrently at 5 p.m. CT. One of the matches will stream live on

Sporting Kansas City vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Feb. 7, 2019 – Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex (Tempe, Arizona)

Scrimmage One
Sporting Kansas City 2, Phoenix Rising FC 1

Scoring Summary:
SKC – Johnny Russell (Unassisted) 56’
PHX – Lamar Neagle (Solomon Asante) 70’
SKC – Graham Zusi (Unassisted) 72’

Misconduct Summary:

Sporting Kansas City Lineup: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas, Matt Besler, Rodney Wallace; Ilie Sanchez, Kelyn Rowe, Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, Daniel Salloi

Scrimmage Two
Sporting Kansas City 1, Phoenix Rising FC 1

Scoring Summary:
SKC – Tyler Freeman (Roger Espinoza) 1’
PHX – Kevon Lambert (Joey Calistri) 28’

Misconduct Summary:

Sporting Kansas City Lineup: Adrian Zendejas; Jaylin Lindsey, Botond Barath, Graham Smith (Mo Abualnadi 45’), Seth Sinovic; Kuzain, Roger Espinoza, Gianluca Busio; Yohan Croizet, Tyler Freeman, Gerso Fernandes