Sporting Kansas City (5-2-1, 16 points) scored three goals during a scintillating second half to secure a wild 3-2 comeback win over rivals Houston Dynamo FC (3-3-2, 11 points) on Saturday night in the first full-capacity match at Children’s Mercy Park since March 7, 2020, when the club defeated the same opponent.
Facing a 1-0 halftime deficit, Sporting unleashed a devastating salvo as Gianluca Busio bagged a world-class free kick, red-hot striker Alan Pulido buried a penalty kick and Gadi Kinda added an impressive third to vault Manager Peter Vermes side within a point of first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
Houston scored early and late through Matias Vera and Maxi Urruti but ultimately fell to a Sporting outfit that has now won three straight matches and scored three goals in three straight regular season fixtures for the first time since 2007. Furthermore, Sporting’s four comeback wins through eight games this year are already one shy of tying the club record set in 1996 and 2007.
Two Sporting Kansas City defenders recovered from minor injuries to account for both changes to the starting XI from last weekend’s 3-1 road win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Kaveh Rad made way for center back Andreu Fontas, while right back Graham Zusi replaced Jaylin Lindsey to make his record-tying 348th competitive appearance in a Kansas City uniform.
A festive crowd of 20,086 created an electric Children’s Mercy Park atmosphere, which fueled Sporting’s bright start. The hosts unleashed four shot attempts in the first eight minutes of action as Pulido, Kinda and Daniel Salloi all asked questions of the Dynamo defense.
Against the run of play, Houston surged ahead with their lone shot attempt of the first half in the 13th minute. Winger Fafa Picault won possession near the corner flag and squeezed a low cross to Urruti, who laid the ball into the path of Vera at the top of the box. The defensive midfielder picked out the bottom right corner for his first career MLS goal in his 57th regular season appearance.
Vermes’ men dominated territory and possession for the remainder of the evening and manufactured a pair of well-worked chances close to halftime. In the 40th minute, Roger Espinoza’s acrobatic side volley off a clever cutback from Kinda was parried away in impressive fashion by Houston goalkeeper Marko Maric, who produced another strong save a few minutes later after Khiry Shelton latched onto Salloi’s teasing delivery.
Sporting stamped their name on the second period by scoring three times in the space of 15 minutes, but not before Houston defender Adam Lundqvist saved his team’s blushes with a goal-line clearance after Kinda slipped a superb through ball to the feet of Salloi in the 50th minute. The 24-year-old Hungarian beat Maric from a tight angle but Lundqvist was there to prevent the ball from nestling into the back of the net.
Busio restored parity in the 51st minute on a sublime strike from 30 yards. One day past his 19th birthday, the Sporting KC Academy product became the youngest MLS player to score a direct free kick since the dawn of the Opta era in 2010 when his right-footed belter curled over the Houston wall, caromed off the left post and bulged the net. The play gave Sporting their first goal from a direct free kick since August 2019, when captain Johnny Russell kickstarted the club’s current 19-game regular season scoring streak at home.
With momentum on Sporting’s side, Houston nearly landed a counterblow in the 57th minute when Picault fed Urruti on the breakaway, but goalkeeper Tim Melia thwarted the Dynamo striker and Zusi scrambled clear on the rebound.
Pulido earned Sporting’s penalty on the hour mark, suffering a foul from Houston captain Boniek Garcia, and promptly dispatched the ensuing spot kick with an inch-perfect finish into the right corner. The Mexican international leads MLS during the month of May with five goals, including four goals and an assist during Sporting’s current three-match winning streak. Pulido now has 17 combined goals (11) and assists (six) in as many starts since joining Sporting ahead of the 2020 campaign.
Children’s Mercy Park was in full voice when Sporting added a third in the 65th minute on an incisive and flowing attack that saw Shelton and Busio combine to set up Kinda, who slotted low inside the near post from the left side of the box for his third goal of the season. The tally proved pivotal, standing as the match winner after Houston snared a last-gasp consolation goal off the foot of Urruti in second-half stoppage time.
Russell impacted proceedings as a late substitute, dashing free down the right wing and squaring the ball to fellow reinforcement Remi Walter, but the Frenchman’s shot under duress lacked the direction to beat Maric. Busio almost blew the roof off the stadium with another sweetly struck free kick, forcing another Maric save, before Melia saved his best moment of the night for the 89th-minute by getting his finger tips to Tim Parker’s header.
The Dynamo cut into the deficit when Urruti notched his team-leading fourth goal of the season on the last consequential kick of the game.
Riding the waves of a successful start to 2021, Sporting is off next weekend and will return to action on June 12 when expansion club Austin FC visits Children’s Mercy Park in a 2 p.m. CT kickoff on Univision, Bally Sports Kansas City Plus and Bally Sports Midwest Plus. Tickets for the contest are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting battles for a fourth successive win.
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 8
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 65 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (5-2-1, 16 points)||0||3||3|
|Houston Dynamo FC (3-3-2, 11 points)||1||1||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ilie Sanchez, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Gianluca Busio, Roger Espinoza (C) (Remi Walter 77'), Gadi Kinda; Khiry Shelton (Johnny Russell 74'), Alan Pulido, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Amadou Dia, Jaylin Lindsey, Roberto Puncec, Kaveh Rad, Felipe Hernandez, Wilson Harris
Houston Dynamo FC: Marko Maric; Zarek Valentin, Tim Parker, Boniek Garcia (C), Adam Lundqvist; Matias Vera (Mateo Bajamich 80'), Derrick Jones (Darwin Ceren 67'), Joe Corona; Fafa Picault, Maxi Urruti, Memo Rodriguez (Ariel Lassiter 67')
Subs Not Used: Michael Nelson, Jose Bizama, Maynor Figueroa, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Nico Lemoine, Christian Ramirez
HOU -- Matias Vera 1 (Maxi Urruti 1, Fafa Picault 2) 13'
SKC -- Gianluca Busio 2 (unassisted) 51'
SKC -- Alan Pulido 5 (penalty kick) 61'
SKC -- Gadi Kinda 3 (Gianluca Busio 1, Khiry Shelton 3) 65'
HOU -- Maxi Urruti 4 (Mateo Bajamich 1, Darwin Ceren 1) 90+3'
HOU -- Derrick Jones (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 4'
HOU -- Matias Vera (yellow card; persistent infringement) 42'
HOU -- Boniek Garcia (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 82'
SKC -- Graham Zusi ( yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+1'
|Shots on Goal||9||4|
Referee: Drew Fischer
Assistant Referee: Cory Richardson
Assistant Referee: Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Elvis Osmanovic
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Jonathan Johnson