Sporting Kansas City twice battled from two goals down to rescue a dramatic draw in a 4-4 thriller against the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
A breathless battle filled with flashbulb moments saw Krisztian Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez bag two goals each, helping Sporting (2-2-4, 10 points) extend their home unbeaten run to 10 regular season matches. The Revolution (2-6-2, 8 points) held leads of 3-1 and 4-2, receiving a Juan Fernando Caicedo brace and additional strikes from Juan Agudelo and DeJuan Jones, but the visitors were reduced to nine men in the late stages and succumbed to a ceaseless wave of Sporting pressure as both sides emerged with a point.
Saturday’s 4-4 stalemate was tied for the highest-scoring competitive match in the nine-year history of Children’s Mercy Park and lifted Sporting’s goal total to 19 on the season, second-most in MLS.
A rash of injuries prompted Sporting Manager Peter Vermes to make three lineup changes from last weekend’s road loss to San Jose. Two of which came in central defense, as 22-year-old Rwandan Abdul Rwatubyaye earned his first MLS start alongside Spaniard Andreu Fontas, who missed the Earthquakes clash with a calf ailment. With Matt Besler out nursing a hamstring injury, fellow veteran Graham Zusi donned the captain’s armband.
Further up the field, Kelyn Rowe landed a starting nod against his former club as part of a midfield triumvirate that also featured 16-year-old Gianluca Busio and the deep-lying Felipe Gutierrez. Illness prevented midfielder Ilie Sanchez from starting his 67th consecutive match for Sporting in all competitions, a streak that began in August 2017.
Caicedo opened the scoring less than a minute after wasting a golden chance off DeJuan Jones’ low delivery into the box. The Colombian atoned for the miss in the 18th minute, settling Agudelo’s pass and swiveling with his back to goal before picking out the near post from seven yards to open his MLS scoring account.
Facing his former club, Nemeth went close on two occasions near the half-hour mark. The Hungarian headed high off Johnny Russell’s service in the 21st minute and dragged a shot inches wide of the near post after Gerso did well to beat his defender and find his teammate with a pocket of space in the penalty area.
Nemeth was undeterred, however, and his persistence paid off in the 33rd minute when he latched onto a brilliant Zusi cross and snapped a header past goalkeeper Cody Cropper for his team-best ninth goal of the season in all competitions and his fifth in MLS. Zusi tallied his second assist in three games on the play, pushing his career regular season total to 65.
Sporting thought they had seized momentum with Nemeth’s equalizer, but New England landed two counter punches prior to halftime. Caicedo ran onto Tajon Buchanan’s pinpoint cross and finished from close range to secure his brace in the 35th minute, marking the fifth time in six matches that Sporting has conceded multiple goals.
Buchanan also created New England’s third of the night in the 43rd minute. The rookie raced down the right channel and whipped in a ball that evaded Caicedo and reached Agudelo, who poked home on the doorstep for his first goal of the campaign and the 44th of his MLS career.
The game’s complexion changed drastically 10 minutes into the second stanza when Gerso, making his 50th career regular season start, was hauled down by Brandon Bye on the breakaway. Bye was issued a straight red card as the last defender, reducing New England to 10 men and effectively swaying the momentum of the match. Sporting quickly translated their numerical advantage into dominance, threatening in the 57th minute when Nemeth nodded wide after Ilie cushioned Russell’s corner back across the face of goal.
Gerso had drawn Bye’s red card and won Sporting a penalty kick on the hour mark, toppling to the turf when Buchanan gave him a tug inside the box. Referee Baldomero Toledo pointed the the spot and Gutierrez made no mistake on the ensuing attempt. Cropper got a hand to the Chilean’s effort, but the seething power behind the strike carried the ball into the roof of the net for his second successful penalty in as many matches.
New England were on the back foot but responded positively in the 64th minute, earning a penalty of their own when Russell—after Toledo consulted his VAR in a video review—was deemed to have committed a handball infraction. Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia saved Carles Gil’s spot kick, but rookie DeJuan Jones was quickest to react and tucked the rebound into the corner for his first career MLS tally.
Sporting cut the deficit back to one in the 70th minute. Ilie, who had entered as a halftime substitute, steered a powerful header into the box that Nemeth laid neatly into the path of Gutierrez. The midfielder prodded low past Cropper from six yards for his second of the night, recording his first brace since March 2018.
The final 20 minutes unfolded in pulsating fashion, typified by a wild sequence that saw Cropper produce a double save to deny Nemeth and Gerso from point-blank range. Gerso was injured on the play and was forced to exit, paving the way for Daniel Salloi’s introduction.
Nemeth buried his second of the evening in the 83rd minute, rising above the rest to head Russell’s delicious corner kick beyond Cropper, level the score at 4-4 and ignite fervent celebrations inside the stadium. The equalizer made Nemeth the first Sporting player ever to hit 10 goals in a single season before the month of May.
The Revolution defended desperately in the dying embers and had another player sent off on 89 minutes when Jalil Anibaba, who played for Sporting in 2015, received his second yellow card. Sporting’s late-game barrage on the New England goal did not produce a winner, however, and the teams would share the spoils after a nail-biting spell of second-half stoppage time.
Sporting returns to Children’s Mercy Park next Sunday, May 5, to host reigning MLS champion Atlanta United FC on Retro Night. Tickets for the highly anticipated matchup, slated for 8 p.m. CT, are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting turns back the clocks with a comprehensive throwback experience for fans in attendance.
2019 MLS Regular Season
Game 8 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 48 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (2-2-4, 10 points)||1||3||4|
|New England Revolution (2-6-2, 8 points)||3||1||4|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi (C), Abdul Rwatubyaye (Nicolas Hasler 90+1'), Andreu Fontas, Yohan Croizet; Felipe Gutierrez, Gianluca Busio (Ilie Sanchez 46'), Kelyn Rowe; Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes (Daniel Salloi 75')
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Botond Barath, Seth Sinovic, Gedion Zelalem
New England Revolution: Cody Cropper; Andrew Farrell, Jalil Anibaba, Edgar Castillo, Brandon Bye; Tajon Buchanan (Teal Bunbury 76'), Scott Caldwell (C); DeJuan Jones (Brian Wright 88'), Carles Gil, Juan Agudelo; Juan Fernando Caicedo (Luis Caicedo 65')
Subs Not Used: Matt Turner, Diego Fagundez, Wilfried Zahibo, Cristian Penilla
NE -- Juan Fernando Caicedo 1 (Juan Agudelo 1, Scott Caldwell 1) 18'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth 5 (Graham Zusi 2, Kelyn Rowe 1) 33'
NE -- Juan Fernando Caicedo 2 (Tajon Buchanan 1) 35'
NE -- Juan Agudelo 1 (unassisted) 42'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez 3 (penalty kick) 60'
NE -- DeJuan Jones 1 (unassisted) 66'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez 4 (unassisted) 70'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth 6 (Johnny Russell 3) 83'
SKC -- Abdul Rwatubyaye (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 41'
NE -- Jalil Anibaba (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 43'
NE -- Brandon Bye (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 45+1'
NE -- Carles Gil (yellow card; dissent) 49'
NE -- Brandon Bye (red card; denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity) 55'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth (yellow card; dissent) 67'
NE -- Edgar Castillo (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 84'
NE -- Jalil Anibaba (red card/second yellow; unsporting behavior) 89'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+3'
NE -- Cody Cropper (yellow card; time wasting) 90+6'
|Shots on Goal||6||7|
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referee: Apolinar Mariscal
Assistant Referee: Jose Da Silva
Fourth Official: Fotis Bazakos
VAR: Daniel Radford
AVAR: Kevin Klinger