FRISCO, Texas – Sporting Kansas City jumped into first place in the Western Conference table with a dominant performance on the road, defeating former No. 1 FC Dallas 3-0 at Toyota Stadium.
It was a tightly-contested match between the two squads. The game had plenty of late challenges, and banter between players showed the intensity each had in the competition.
“I thought today was a playoff mode for everyone,” FC Dallas head coach Óscar Pareja said. “Disappointed for the result, but it was great to see our team fighting in that playoff mode. I think we showed today a lot of stuff that made us proud, and I am proud of these guys for qualifying for the playoffs very early and we’re going to be there. We just want to be in a different spot, but hopefully we can see Kansas again.”
Added midfielder Victor Ulloa: “When the opponent is saying stuff when they’re up 3-0, our players don’t take it well. It’s normal as a human being, but [we] just gotta keep everyone calm. Most important part of the season is coming up. The most important game is next week heading into the playoffs. We need everybody if we want to make a run for that cup.”
Johnny Russell put the cap on a dominant performance by the visitors with a penalty goal in the 87th minute after a late challenge by FCD defender Marquinhos Pedroso on the goal line. The Scottish national played a big part in the team’s complete performance and added to his tally of 10 goals and 10 assists this MLS season.
The first half was stronger for FC Dallas as the team pressured Kansas City. It was a very back-and-forth affair between the two sides. Winger Michael Barrios wreaked havoc on the SKC defense, beating the backline multiple times but unable to find a goal. It was positive in the eyes of Dallas until the 45th minute, when SKC broke through.
Dallas conceded a penalty in the 14th minute when Russell crossed a ball into the path of midfielder Felipe Guiterrez, who was tackled by FCD defender Matt Hedges. Ilie Sanchez lined up the penalty, but it was saved by Gonzalez.
Combination play in the first half helped SKC get its opening goal. Forward Khiry Shelton played a through ball to winger Daniel Salloi, who broke free. Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez took the shot but was denied by Gonzalez. The rebound fell to Salloi, who put it by Gonzalez and defender Reggie Cannon to give SKC a 1-0 lead in the 45th minute.
“We had a great first half,” Ulloa said. “We created a lot of chances and to give up the goal late in the first half. All props to them, they came in and had a good result.”
Roger Espinoza finished off a team effort by Sporting Kansas City with a goal in the 64th minute off a corner kick. Russell sent a ball into the box and centerback Ike Opara flicked it on. The ball fell to Espinoza, and on the volley he put it past Jesse Gonzalez to make it 2-0.
FCD had a chance to get a goal early in the second half on a penalty earned by Hedges as he was dragged down by Sanchez. Centerback Reto Ziegler lined up the penalty but SKC keeper Tim Melia came up big, guessing the right way and parrying the shot away in the 49th minute.
Dallas now drops into third place in the Western Conference after having the opportunity to win and clinch a bye going into the playoffs. However, the team is in a strong position to finish with a bye. A win against Colorado next weekend will virtually guarantee them the No. 2 seed.
“Everyone’s frustrated,” right back Reggie Cannon said. “It’s football, you gotta keep going. Everyone’s coming back from the national team and it’s tough to get that chemistry again. You just gotta figure it out. I have no doubt that FC Dallas will bounce back, we’ll be back.”
Dallas will play Colorado on Decision Day at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, while Sporting Kansas City will return home to play Western Conference foe Los Angeles FC for the top spot.