Second-place Sporting Kansas City (9-3-3, 30 points) earned a statement win on Sunday night by sinking first-place Seattle Sounders FC (9-2-5, 32 points) in a 3-1 thriller at Lumen Field.
Seattle carried a 17-game home unbeaten run into a marquee battle between the Western Conference’s top teams, but outstanding goals from captain Johnny Russell, red-hot winger Daniel Salloi and 20-year-old Cam Duke—plus three superb saves from Tim Melia—sealed the momentous victory as Sporting collected their third straight win in the series and improved to 7-2-3 in their last dozen regular season meetings with Seattle.
Sunday’s signature win lifts Sporting level with the Sounders at the top of the West on points per game and three points behind the New England Revolution in the Supporters’ Shield race. Unbeaten in four straight games and wielding a 7-1-2 record in their last 10, Sporting will look to continue their winning ways Saturday when they host FC Dallas (3-7-5, 14 points) at Children’s Mercy Park. The 7:30 p.m. CT encounter will be shown live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus and Bally Sports Midwest Plus and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com, including Family Four-Packs consisting of four general admission tickets, four Coca-Cola products and four Domino’s pizzas.
Coming off a 1-1 home draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, Sporting Kansas City fielded a lineup that included one change each in the midfield and attack. Academy products Cam Duke and Wilson Harris dropped to the bench as veterans Roger Espinoza and Khiry Shelton—who now boast a 12-0-3 regular season record when starting together—slotted into the XI. For the second straight game, assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin led Sporting from the sidelines with Manager Peter Vermes absent due to health and safety protocols.
After a cagey start to proceedings, Gadi Kinda conjured the first notable chance of the night in the 23rd minute with a delectable service into the box from the left flank. The on-running Espinoza was lurking to steer it home but his lunging attempt under duress fizzed marginally wide of the target. At the opposite end, Melia produced a phenomenal save two minutes later by diving left to cast aside a wonderfully struck Montero bicycle kick.
Russell broke the game open in spectacular fashion on the half-hour mark. The Scottish winger did well to win a set piece 25 yards from goal by barreling into the central channel and drawing a foul on Danny Leyva. His ensuing left-footed free kick bent around the Seattle wall, kissed off the far left post and nestled into the back of the net, bringing silence to the stunned Lumen Field crowd. Russell has now scored in two straight road matches and his three free kick strikes since 2019 are tied for the second most in MLS.
Seattle had conceded two first-half goals all season prior to Sunday but suffered the brunt of another Sporting haymaker in the 42nd minute. Kinda kickstarted a ruthless counterattack by dispossessing Kelyn Rowe at midfield and spreading the ball wide left to Shelton, who galloped forward and returned a pass to his Israeli teammate. Kinda’s deft touch to the right found Salloi in stride and the 25-year-old made no mistake by hammering a shot past Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland for the ninth goal of his brilliant 2021 campaign. Salloi now has six goals and an assist in his last seven matches, contributing valuably to a Sporting side that has seen Academy products score or assist in each of the last 10 games.
Sporting were the superior side for the first 45 minutes but began the second half ominously when Seattle quickly pulled a goal back. Melia punched Rowe’s in-swinging cross only as far as Reed Baker-Whiting near the penalty spot and the ball fell fortuitously to Montero, whose side-footed finish cut the Sounders’ deficit in half.
Seattle nearly equalized in the 55th minute on an audacious 20-yard chip shot from MLS Golden Boot leader Raul Ruidiaz, but Melia conjured a world-class save by leaping at full extension, getting a fingertip to the ball and redirecting it onto the goalpost.
The visitors restored their two-goal cushion behind Duke’s sublime strike in the 72nd minute. Just two minutes after entering the match, the Sporting KC Academy graduate raced onto a tantalizing delivery from Graham Zusi and slotted a remarkable first-time strike beyond the outstretched Cleveland and into the low left corner. Duke’s first career MLS goal came on the heels of a standout performance on Wednesday against San Jose, while Zusi collected his 67th regular season assist for the club—second-most in team history—and Russell jumped to eighth on Kansas City’s all-time regular season chart with his 27th career assist.
Shellshocked from Duke’s goal, Seattle seldom threatened in the dying embers of the contest, although Melia racked up another terrific save in second-half stoppage time by thwarting a frustrated Ruidiaz at close range. Sporting’s goalkeeper is now 7-2-2 in 11 regular season appearances against Seattle, including three victories at Lumen Field.