Recap: Sporting suffers season-ending 3-0 loss to Minnesota in Western Conference Semifinals

Sporting Kansas City suffered a season-ending 3-0 loss to Minnesota United FC on Thursday night in the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs at Children’s Mercy Park.

Minnesota struck three first-half goals in the space of 12 minutes—receiving a Kevin Molino brace, a Bakaye Dibassy header and three assists from Emanuel Reynoso—to claim their first win in seven tries at Children’s Mercy Park and advance to the Western Conference Final on Monday at Seattle Sounders FC.

Sporting’s 2020 campaign ends after the club claimed its fourth first-place conference finish in the last 10 seasons under Manager Peter Vermes, who on Thursday fielded an unchanged lineup from a thrilling Round One playoff victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Nov. 22.

A turbulent first half for the hosts began brightly as Sporting went agonizingly close to opening the scoring within two minutes. Forward Johnny Russell cut past Minnesota defender Chase Gasper on the right wing and fed midfielder Roger Espinoza, who returned the ball to Russell with a brilliant scoop pass into the box. The Scottish international chipped his shot over the head of stranded goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, but Minnesota defender Michael Boxall had retreated to head clear off the goal line.

Russell had another major chance to fire his side ahead in the 14th minute, dashing onto Khiry Shelton’s through ball and driving goalward, but his side-footed effort was repelled as St. Clair produced a vital reflex save. Only a minute later, the keeper denied Sporting center back Roberto Puncec on the doorstep by turning away his close-range header.

The Loons flipped the game on its head by exploding for three goals between the 27th and 39th minutes. Reynoso manufactured the breakthrough, slipping a pass through to Molino who finished low past Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, before the duo combined again eight minutes later. Molino’s second tally was an impressive sliding volley off a Reynoso lob pass, giving Molino four goals during the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Minnesota landed their final punch six minutes shy of halftime as Dibassy nodded home off a Reynoso corner kick, giving the Argentine playmaker his sixth assist of the 2020 postseason.

The second half unfolded in pedestrian manner as the teams combined for just three shots on target. Melia saved a pair of long-range Reynoso strikes before Sporting substitute Erik Hurtado had his 76th-minute attempt smothered by St. Clair.

Sporting Kansas City will now enter the offseason with eyes cast on 2021, which will see the club compete in its 26th campaign as a charter member of Major League Soccer.

Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Semifinal
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 31 degrees and clear

Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City 0 0 0
Minnesota United FC 3 0 3

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jaylin Lindsey, Roberto Puncec, Winston Reid, Amadou Dia (Luis Martins 56'); Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza (Felipe Hernandez 78'), Gianluca Busio (Gadi Kinda 56'); Johnny Russell (C), Khiry Shelton, Gerso Fernandes (Erik Hurtado 68')
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Andreu Fontas, Graham Smith, Cam Duke, Daniel Salloi

Minnesota United FC: Dayne St. Clair; Romain Metanire, Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, Chase Gasper; Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso (C) (Hassani Dotson 72'); Ethan Finlay, Emanuel Reynoso (Marlon Hairston 80'), Kevin Molino (Jacori Hayes 88'); Robin Lod
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Jose Aja, Noah Billingsley, Thomas Chacon, Kei Kamara, Aaron Schoenfeld

Scoring Summary:
MIN -- Kevin Molino 3 (Emanuel Reynoso 4) 27'
MIN -- Kevin Molino 4 (Emanuel Reynoso 5) 35'
MIN -- Bakaye Dibassy 1 (Emanuel Reynoso 6) 39'

Misconduct Summary:
MIN -- Emanuel Reynoso (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 42'
MIN -- Jan Gregus (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 57'
MIN -- Chase Gasper (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 80'
MIN -- Bakaye Dibassy (yellow card; time wasting) 82'
MIN -- Marlon Hairston (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 84'

Shots 19 13
Shots on Goal 5 8
Saves 5 4
Fouls 12 20
Offsides 2 3
Corner Kicks 5 4

Referee: Drew Fischer
Assistant Referee: Kathryn Nesbitt
Assistant Referee: Peter Manikowski
Fourth Official: Victor Rivas
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic
AVAR: Eric Weisbrod