Sporting Kansas City punched its ticket to the MLS is Back Tournament Knockout Stage on Wednesday morning with a 2-0 win over rivals Real Salt Lake at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World.
Less than two hours after logging 84 minutes in the earliest competitive match in Sporting history—the contest kicked off at 9 a.m. local time and 8 a.m. in Kansas City—forward Khiry Shelton joined 610 Sports Radio hosts Cody Tapp and Alex Gold to recap the pivotal victory.
“I haven’t played this early since I was a young boy,” Shelton said. “I was up at 6 a.m., had breakfast by 6:30, then the bus departed for the stadium at 7:40. It was an early one, so we had to make an adjustment and we did so.”
Sporting struck just 49 seconds into the match through Johnny Russell—the fourth-quickest goal in the clubs’ regular season history—before Gerso Fernandes came off the bench to bag a brilliant stunner in the 86th minute to culminate a 17-pass buildup in which all 11 Sporting players touched the ball. Manager Peter Vermes’ men also notched their first clean sheet of the tournament, limiting RSL to a single shot on target.
Shelton’s three-game goal scoring streak, which began March 7 and included Sporting’s first two fixtures in the MLS is Back Tournament, came to an end against RSL, but his workmanlike shift helped neutralize the Utah side over the course of the morning.
“We defended as a team and it was hard to break us. (Real Salt Lake) didn’t have any clear chances as a team,” Shelton said. “That’s a reward for us putting in the work. We’re happy about the win and now we move forward.”
With two and a half weeks of Disney bubble life under their belts, Shelton says Sporting players and coaches are acclimating well to an environment that has felt increasingly safe, especially on the heels of several straight negative tests for COVID-19 across the Orlando camp.
“It’s been a bit different, that’s for sure,” Shelton said. “But MLS has done everything to ensure that we’re safe here. We’re thankful because they’ve done more than enough to make sure that everyone is safe and following the protocols. The longer we’re here, the better it’s going to get as time goes on.”
In his free time, Shelton said he has played plenty of Cards Against Humanity with teammates and read a book by Trevor Moawad called “It Takes What It Takes,” which offers guidance on how to think neutrally and take control of life.
As for Sporting’s path in the knockout rounds, Shelton believes Sporting has what it takes to win the competition, regardless of which teams stand in their way.
“We’re not too worried about who we’re going to be facing,” he said. “We’re just worrying about ourselves and how we prepare for the next game, no matter who we play.”