Gianluca Busio marked his 50th career regular season appearance with a goal to help Sporting Kansas City (1-0-1, 4 points) to a 1-1 draw against Orlando City SC (0-0-2, 2 points) in an exciting Children’s Mercy Park home opener on Friday night.
Sporting’s two longest-tenured Homegrown Players combined on the cusp of halftime as Busio notched his sixth MLS goal off an assist from Daniel Salloi, but Orlando responded in the 79th minute through Nani to split the points in the first match at Children’s Mercy Park since December. VAR notably intervened three times throughout the contest, with Nani’s equalizer awarded after video review and both teams having goals disallowed for offside.
An unchanged Sporting Kansas City lineup from last Saturday’s 2-1 road win over the New York Red Bulls saw two midfielders reach notable landmarks. Just as 18-year-old Busio played his 50th regular season game, 34-year-old veteran Roger Espinoza moved into fourth place on the club’s all-time chart for regular season minutes. The biggest milestone of the night, however, belonged to Sporting Manager Peter Vermes, who became the second person in league history to participate in 600 MLS matches as a player or a head coach (regular season and playoffs).
Making his Children’s Mercy Park debut after collecting his first MLS win last weekend, 20-year-old goalkeeper John Pulskamp was called into immediate action after an Orlando long ball was pegged into the air by Sporting defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and fell to the foot of Tesho Akindele. The Orlando forward fired goalward with only Pulskamp to beat, but the Homegrown keeper produced a fine reflex save to keep the game goalless.
Isimat thought he had punctuated his first Sporting home match with a goal in the 13th minute. The Frenchman buried a close-range rebound after his fellow countryman Remi Walter forced a save from Pedro Gallese, but Video Assistant Referee Chris Penso prompted head official Joseph Dickerson to reexamine the play. Isimat was then ruled to be in an offside position, marking the first time VAR has overturned a Sporting goal since March 2019.
Orlando enjoyed a strong spell midway through the first half and threatened with chances from Ruan and Andres Perea in the 17th and 23rd minutes, but Espinoza and Sporting center back Andreu Fontas made crucial defensive plays to keep the visitors at bay. Shortly thereafter, Benji Michel slotted home a rebound after Pulskamp saved Nani’s blistering turf-trimmer, but the Orlando midfielder was flagged offside.
Pulskamp delivered once more in the 40th minute, racing off his line to win the ball cleanly off the feed of advanced defender Rodrigo Schlegel near the penalty spot.
Sporting broke the deadlock in impressive fashion seconds before intermission. Salloi did brilliantly to apply pressure and create an Orlando turnover on the left edge of the box before pulling the ball back to Busio. The Sporting KC Academy product took a composed touch, swiveled his hips and cannoned a low drive inside the near post past Gallese. The well-taken goal gave Salloi his first assist since September 2019 and extended Sporting’s home scoring streak to 18 regular season matches.
The Lions wasted no time swinging for an equalizer in the second half and looked to have restored parity in the 49th minute when Perea settled a pass on the left side of the box and hammered a shot in off the crossbar. VAR resurfaced, however, and Perea was deemed to be offside when the ball glanced off his teammate Antonio Carlos in the buildup.
Club-record signing Alan Pulido entered for Sporting as a halftime substitute and almost doubled his side’s lead in the 54th minute, receiving a clever pass from Luis Martins and dragging a left-footed effort inches wide of Gallese’s left-hand post. Fontas nearly bagged a long-range stunner five minutes later, only to see his admirable attempt cast aside by the fingertips of a diving Gallese.
Orlando gained traction in the late stages and ultimately drew level with less than a dozen minutes remaining. Nani’s impudent backheel finish was initially disallowed for an offside infraction in the attack’s leadup, but VAR ruled in favor of the Lions this time around and the game-tying goal was given.
With four points from their first two matches this season, Sporting will continue their 2021 MLS campaign next Saturday, May 1, with a 1 p.m. CT visit to rivals Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Western Conference clash will be shown live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO.
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 2
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 55 degrees and cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City (1-0-1, 4 points)||1||0||1|
|Orlando City SC (0-0-2, 2 points)||0||1||1|
Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp; Jaylin Lindsey, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (Roberto Puncec 63'), Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Remi Walter, Gadi Kinda (Alan Pulido 46'), Roger Espinoza (C); Khiry Shelton, Gianluca Busio, Daniel Salloi (Johnny Russell 74')
Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Kaveh Rad, Cam Duke, Felipe Hernandez, Grayson Barber, Wilson Harris
Orlando City SC: Pedro Gallese; Ruan, Antonio Carlos, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith; Benji Michel (Chris Mueller 57'), Sebastian Mendez, Junior Urso (Alexander Alvarado 77'), Andres Perea; Tesho Akindele (Matheus Aias 77'), Nani (C) (Joye Dezart 89')
Subs Not Used: Brandon Austin, Michael Halliday, Rio Hope-Gund, Joao Moutinho, Jordan Bender
SKC -- Gianluca Busio 1 (Daniel Salloi 1) 45'
ORL -- Nani 1 (Chris Mueller 1) 79'
ORL -- Kyle Smith (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 12'
ORL -- Sebastian Mendez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 61'
SKC -- Roberto Puncec (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 86'
|Shots on Goal||5||4|
Referee: Joseph Dickerson
Assistant Referee: Kyle Atkins
Assistant Referee: Kathryn Nesbitt
Fourth Official: Brandon Stevis
VAR: Chris Penso
AVAR: Peter Balciunas