(Aug. 4, 2021) — Sporting Kansas City (10-4-3, 33 points) vaulted to the summit of the Western Conference with an astounding 4-1 victory over LAFC (6-6-5, 23 points) on Wednesday night at Banc of California Stadium.
Alan Pulido, Luis Martins and Daniel Salloi struck during a dazzling first-half display before Gadi Kinda added a fourth goal in the second half as Sporting drew level on points with Seattle Sounders FC and claimed first place by virtue of the wins tiebreaker. LAFC salvaged a late consolation goal through Danny Musovski but sustained their heaviest home defeat in the club’s four-year history.
Wednesday’s momentous result gave Manager Peter Vermes his 200th coaching win for Sporting in all competitions as his team improved to 4-1-0 on the West Coast this season. Boasting a league-best five road victories in 2021, Sporting will look to continue their winning ways Saturday when they visit the fourth-place Colorado Rapids (8-4-3, 27 points) in a compelling Western Conference clash at 8 p.m. CT. Supporters can catch the action live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
With his team kickstarting a busy run of six matches in 18 days, Vermes made two changes to the starting lineup from Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to FC Dallas. Midfielder Ilie Sanchez stepped in for Roger Espinoza and Pulido — returning to the club after a monthlong Concacaf Gold Cup stint with the Mexico Men’s National Team — replaced captain Johnny Russell.
The visitors enjoyed a vivacious start and were rewarded in the 20th minute. Right back Graham Zusi sent a thumping long ball over the top for Khiry Shelton to chase. LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero raced off his line in an attempt to punch clear, but Shelton beat him to it and suffered a full body blow from Romero in the process. Pulido scooped up the loose ball and calmly slotted past retreating defender Tristan Blackmon and into the empty net, notching his seventh goal of the season and his second against LAFC after scoring in Sporting’s 2-1 home win on June 26.
High on momentum, Sporting landed another haymaker in the 28th minute when Martins bagged his first career MLS goal. The Portuguese left back ignited the scoring play with a probing run into the central channel before spreading it left to Daniel Salloi, who was announced as an MLS All-Star on Wednesday afternoon. The 25-year-old Hungarian juked his way down the left endline and pulled a pass back for Martins, who opened up his body and tucked an excellent finish into the right corner. Sporting KC Academy products have now scored or assisted in a remarkable 12 straight MLS matches dating back to May 16.
A stunning first half saw Sporting reach dreamland in the 36th minute with a magisterial strike from the red-hot Salloi. Zusi embarked on an overlapping run down the right wing, received a pass from Shelton and fizzed a low cross to Salloi, whose first-touch bullet nestled just inside the near post with pinpoint precision. Zusi now has assists in three straight regular season matches for the first time since August 2012, while Salloi leads MLS with 15 combined goals (10) and primary assists (five).
The teams traded chances on the cusp of intermission, with LAFC wingback Raheem Edwards smashing a shot off the post and Pulido curling inches wide from 20 yards after settling a pass from Kinda. Sporting’s 3-0 advantage at halftime marked the fifth time ever that the club has scored three goals in the first half of a regular season road game. Furthermore, LAFC faced their first three-goal halftime deficit in club history, having entered MLS as an expansion side in 2018.
After suffering a series of fatal Sporting blows, LAFC were eager to atone after the restart. Kim Moon-Hwan did well to set up Diego Rossi in the 51st minute, but the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner lifted his open shot over the crossbar. Shortly thereafter, Jose Cifuentes drilled a venomous blast marginally wide from 20 yards.
Any impetus LAFC gained at the start of the second half was promptly extinguished near the hour mark as Sporting expanded their lead. Zusi was afforded space on the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross into the penalty area, where Kinda floated between a pair of LAFC defenders to nod an excellent header past the helpless Romero for his fourth goal of the campaign. Zusi tabbed his 70th career regular season assist on the play as Sporting became the first LAFC opponent to score four goals in a road match at Banc of California Stadium.
The hosts endured further frustration in the 74th minute. After Sporting defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin performed an acrobatic clearance off a teasing cross, 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela unleashed a bicycle kick that screamed inches high. The prolific Mexican, who entered the night with goals in four straight games, spurned another opportunity in the dying embers by dragging a left-footed effort wide at close range.
After their first 16 shot attempts failed to test Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, LAFC finally put one on target in the 82nd minute as Musovski ran onto Diego Palacios’ through ball and slotted low to make the score 4-1. Musovski could have added to his total in the 89th minute, chesting down a diagonal pass from Mamadou Fall only to see his lobbed shot float a foot over the woodwork.
LAFC thought they had won a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time when referee Alan Kelly pointed to the spot after Andreu Fontas tripped Fall on the edge of the box. VAR intervened, however, and deemed the foul to have taken place outside of the penalty area. Vela’s ensuing free kick missed the target.