KANSAS CITY — Just a week after Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes lamented his team’s lack of urgency, the goals rained down early. Sporting KC scored three times in the first half against Minnesota United FC, on its way to a 4-1 win Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. It’s the second time this year that SKC has scored three goals in the first half of a match.
The victory comes a week after a lackluster 0-0 draw against Columbus, when Vermes called his team’s effort into question.
“You’re always trying to figure out how your team responds,” he said after Sunday’s win. “What I would say is the response was excellent. The first half I think is probably the best first half of soccer that we’ve played this year. I mean, we probably could have scored five goals in the first half easily.”
The first of those came from Daniel Salloi early on in the 9th minute. Yohan Croizet had headed a ball out of traffic back into play, and Salloi took it onto his foot for just a tick before sending it into the back of the net.
“That goal that he scored was world-class,” Vermes saidof Salloi. “He was very good for us. I thought what he created was he created a lot of mismatches for them, because I don’t think they could stay with him, and the way he was moving with the ball and without.”
Tyrone Mears yanked a shot from distance that got past Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, tying the match in just the 11th minute.
But it was a rookie that would jumpstart Kansas City’s impending blowout.
Jun 3, 2018; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Diego Rubio (11) celebrates after scoring against Minnesota United in the second half at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Graham Zusi had a slick move on the near side to keep possession over his tumbling defender and got the ball quickly to Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal. The rookie had just been called into duty in the 18th minute when Croizet went down with an injury. But the 19-year-old expertly sent a left-footed shot through a traffic jam in the box, notching his first Major League Soccer goal.
“All season, Peter’s been saying, ‘If there’s space, get in the box. We want runners in the box,’” Kuzain said. “I saw Zuse get it down the line and I saw Daniel make a run, and I just wanted to stay on top of the ball in case anything came there. It did, and I got some decent contact, and it went in.”
Just three minutes after Kuzain’s goal, Cristian Lobato doubled Sporting’s lead with his own. Roger Espinoza slipped a perfectly-placed ball into the box and Lobato got a shot off that trickled past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and over the line, just a moment too late for the sliding Minnesota defender.
Diego Rubio added the final dagger in the 81st minute. Fernandes had battled for possession in the box, and finally got a ball sent to Rubio, who crossed over a defender, got the ball to his left and sent a bullet into the back corner of the net. The goal set the final score of 4-1, the fourth time Sporting has won by two goals or more this season.
The victory puts Sporting KC two points clear of second place in the West. SKC is also second in the Supporters Shield standings as of Sunday, behind only Atlanta United.