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Wednesday’s controversial 1-0 defeat to FC Dallas probably left Sporting Kansas City coaches, players and fans alike with the same range of emotions.
On one hand, frustration—bitter frustration resulting from a disputable call in which referee Armando Villarreal disallowed Johnny Russell’s 87th-minute equalizer after whistling Gadi Kinda for a foul on Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer in the crowded six-yard area. The goal would have drawn Sporting level at 1-1 and vaulted Manager Peter Vermes’ men into a tie for first place in the Western Conference.
On another hand, eagerness to bounce back immediately as a means of casting this contentious loss into the proverbial fire. Fortunately, Sporting will have that opportunity as well, as they will travel to face Chicago Fire FC in a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff on Saturday at Soldier Field.
Indeed, the club’s three-game winning streak is over, and the prevailing sentiment will be “Onto the next.” But before we turn the page to this weekend’s clash against Chicago, it’s worth revisiting the difficult circumstances that Sporting very nearly overcame to secure a result in Frisco, Texas.
Juggling both injuries and a remarkably congested schedule—Sporting were playing their fourth game in 12 days, while Dallas were playing for the first time in a week—Vermes fielded a heavily rotated lineup that featured a back four that had never played together and a midfield trio that had never started together.
The backline had a distinctly unique look to it, as first-year center back Roberto Puncec and outside backs Amadou Dia and Jaylin Lindsey were joined by Spanish veteran and 2020 debutant Andreu Fontas.
A product of the famed FC Barcelona Academy and a member of Sporting since 2018, Fontas hadn’t played a competitive match for the club since Aug. 10, 2019—a period of 431 days—due to an Achilles injury he suffered at the end of last season.
It would have been fair to expect a less-than-perfect display from Fontas, but instead the 30-year-old delivered a solid and extremely well-rounded performance as Sporting’s defensive anchor. In fact, Fontas became the first Sporting player this season to finish with 45 successful passes, six clearances, three duels won and two interceptions in a game.
Fontas completed 46 of 50 passes, both team-highs, and his six clearances were the fifth-most of any MLS player across the 11 matches that took place on Wednesday.
“I thought we were very solid defensively,” said Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, who finished the night with six saves. “Fontas is a very good player playing out of the back, and that’s something that we obviously weren’t doing in the first half, but as we settled into the game and brought a couple of guys in, I thought his ability in possession was really positive. They didn’t really have a lot of opportunities, so all in all, it was a good game for Fontas. It was great to have him back out there and I’m sure he was excited to be back on the field. He’s come back from a difficult, long stretch with an injury and fought to come back into the team. You’re happy when you get to see your teammates out there performing and we hope he keeps moving forward in a positive direction.”
Lindsey also remarked on Fontas’ strong showing after the match, praising the veteran for his ability to go the full 90 minutes despite not playing in over 14 months.
“Obviously it’s hard when you haven’t played games, especially in his situation where he hasn’t played because of injury,” Lindsey said. “It was a long period of time, so I think he came in and did a great job. Playing for 90 minutes is pretty amazing honestly, because it’s hard to come back after not playing for a while and then play a straight 90 minutes. I thought he came into the team and gelled well.”
Lindsey was one of four Homegrown Players to start for Sporting on Wednesday, joining forward Daniel Salloi and midfielders Gianluca Busio and Felipe Hernandez. This marked the third time in club history where Sporting started four Homegrowns in an MLS match. Coincidentally, all three have come against FC Dallas.
SPORTING KC: FOUR HOMEGROWN STARTERS IN AN MLS MATCH
|10/06/2019||at FC Dallas||Gianluca Busio
|09/02/2020||FC DALLAS||Gianluca Busio
|10/14/2020||at FC Dallas||Gianluca Busio
Lastly, Wednesday brought an end to Sporting’s impressive scoring streak dating back to the start of the 2020 campaign. Vermes’ side had entered the game as the only MLS team yet to be shut out in the regular season, and its 16-game run fell four matches short of the all-time club record.
SPORTING KC: LONGEST SCORING STREAKS IN MLS REGULAR SEASON
As attention turns to the weekend, Sporting will be buoyed by the fact that they remain just a point out of first place in the West. Better yet, they will have the opportunity reach the summit on Saturday when they battle Chicago. The afternoon matchup will be shown regionally on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO in addition to airing nationally in Spanish on Univision and TUDN. Fans can also catch a live stream on @TUDNUSA Twitter or listen in locally on ESPN 94.5 FM or La Grande 1340 AM.