In the club’s first home match at Children’s Mercy Park since March 7, Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (5-2-0, 15 points) suffered a 5-2 defeat to rivals Houston Dynamo (1-2-4, 7 points) on Tuesday night.
Johnny Russell and Gadi Kinda scored for the hosts on either side of halftime, but Houston used a Darwin Quintero brace and strikes from Alberth Elis, Christian Ramirez and Niko Hansen to secure their first victory of the season and their first triumph at Children’s Mercy Park since 2014.
Sporting remains four points clear at the summit of the Western Conference despite the loss and will look to bounce back Saturday with a trip to the Colorado Rapids (2-3-1, 7 points) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The contest will kick off at 8 p.m. CT and air live on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
Manager Peter Vermes made two changes to Sporting’s starting XI from a 2-1 win at Minnesota United FC last Friday. Gerso Fernandes replaced Khiry Shelton on the wing, earning his 100th career MLS appearance for the club, while center back Matt Besler stepped in for Graham Smith and in the second half became the first player in team history to eclipse 30,000 minutes played across all competitions.
Operating as a deep-lying midfielder for the second straight match, 18-year-old Gianluca Busio provided the first flashbulb moment in the sixth minute by unleashing a 35-yard thunderbolt that Houston goalkeeper Marko Maric was forced to parry over the crossbar. Not long later, Russell fired inches high of the mark after Alan Pulido did well to flick a header into his teammate’s path.
Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia entered the night with a perfect 4-0-0 regular season record in 2020 but was decidedly busy in the early stages, producing a fine save to deny Ramirez in the 15th minute. Houston would land their first punch two minutes later, however, as Quintero slithered past a pair of defenders and squared to Elis for a simple finish. Vermes men’ avoided a further blow just before the 20-minute mark, as Elis’ cross was turned onto the post by Sporting center back Winston Reid and dribbled safely into Melia’s mitts.
Russell drew his side level in the 26th minute. Gerso’s low delivery from the right wing was met by Pulido, whose first-time shot deflected high and looped goalward, only to be headed off the line by Zarek Valentin. Waiting for the rebound was Russell, who hammered home at close range for his second goal of the campaign and the 23rd of his Sporting career in all competitions.
The visitors restored their advantage a minute shy of halftime when Elis’ driven ball across the face of goal was steered into the back of the net by Ramirez. Elis would exit at intermission and Niko Hansen was summoned in his place, impacting proceedings almost immediately by racing down the right side and chipping past Melia to extend Houston’s lead to 3-1.
An instant reply from Sporting saw Kinda bag his team-leading fourth goal of the season in the 49th minute. A wild sequence in Houston’s goalmouth culminated with an acrobatic overhead finish off the underside of the post from Kinda after Pulido nearly scored off a Graham Zusi cross. Sporting leads MLS with 17 regular season goals in 2020, good for a clip of 2.43 per game.
Any momentum Sporting had was extinguished near the hour mark when Houston struck twice in the space of four minutes. Quintero settled a Darwin Ceren backheel pass and curled an impressive shot into the far corner before adding his second on a through-ball assist from Hansen.
A flurry of second-half substitutions resulted in a milestone moment for the Sporting KC Academy. With the introductions of Cameron Duke, Felipe Hernandez and Daniel Salloi-who joined Busio and right back Jaylin Lindsey on the pitch-Sporting fielded five Homegrown Players in a competitive match for the first time in team history.
Tuesday’s game was the first for Sporting at Children’s Mercy Park in 171 days, dating back to the club’s home-opening 4-0 win over the Dynamo in early March. The sides will meet for the third time this season on Sept. 5 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.