Forward Alan Pulido scored a pair of goals to lead Sporting Kansas City to a hard-fought 2-1 road victory against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium on Saturday night. Homegrown midfielder Gianluca Busio provided assists on both goals as Sporting improved to 7-5-2 (23 pts.) on the season, with the Dynamo dropping to 3-5-7 (16 pts.).
In Sporting’s first game in 10 days following the postponement of last Sunday’s match with the Colorado Rapids, it was the Houston Dynamo that started on the front foot and created the first two chances of the game. In the seventh minute, Adam Lundkvist’s cross from the left was diverted narrowly over the bar by Mauro Manotas before the Colombian striker again missed the target when well placed in the 16th minute.
Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia was forced into a pair of saves early, including a stop to deny Darwin Quintero what would’ve been his third goal of the season against SKC. At the other end, Busio – playing in a more advanced position on the night – threatened for the first time as he curled a left-footed effort just wide of the post.
In the 25th minute, Sporting KC earned a free kick approximately 30 yards from Houston’s goal and Johnny Russell almost produced a spectacular strike but his effort skimmed the roof of the net on its way over the bar.
Sporting KC took the lead in the 34th minute after a devastating counterattack. Ilie Sanchez picked off a loose pass in the midfield and fed Busio who in turn played an inch-perfect pass into the path Pulido. The Designated Player found himself alone dribbling at Kiki Struna and, after turning the Slovenian inside out, fired a low shot into the corner to give Sporting KC a precious lead heading into halftime.
Houston controlled the opening period of the second half but the introduction of Roger Espinoza turned the tide in the 61st minute, with the Honduran make his first appearance since Aug. 29 after recovering from injury.
Espinoza’s presence gave Sporting KC added impetus in the midfield and the chances soon started flowing for the visitors. First, Pulido surged at the Houston backline before slipping Khiry Shelton in alone with Marko Maric, but Shelton’s low strike was well repelled by the Houston goalkeeper before Russell’s follow-up was parried away. Two minutes later, Pulido again showed his creative tendencies as he played Russell in on goal but the Scotsman’s right-footed effort was blocked by Maric.
The second goal was coming and it finally arrived in the 73rd minute. Espinoza slipped a lovely pass into the path of Busio who found Pulido with a brilliant first-time pass and the Mexican striker did the rest, lofting an excellent finish over Maric and into the side-netting to make the score 2-0. At just 18 years of age, Busio now has three assists on the season and is the youngest player in MLS to have multiple assists in 2020.
With the game getting increasingly testy in the closing stages – nine yellow cards were shown on the night, including seven after the 70th minute – Houston found a route back into the game when Sam Junqua headed home his first professional goal off Quintero’s corner in the 84th minute.
The Dynamo piled numbers forward in the closing stages looking for an equalizer, but aside from substitute Niko Hansen’s effort that flew high and wide, Sporting held firm to clinch all three points and improve to 3-1-1 on the road in the 2020 regular season.
Sporting KC now returns home to prepare for a Wednesday night clash with Eastern Conference foe the Chicago Fire at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and Sports Radio 810 WHB.