Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City (1-1-0, 3 points) bounced into the 2022 win column with a 1-0 victory over Houston Dynamo FC (0-1-1, 1 point) on Saturday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park. French midfielder Remi Walter scored on the hour mark to give the hosts a deserved home-opening triumph against their longtime Western Conference rivals, who managed just five shot attempts against an organized and resolute Sporting side.
The result gave Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia his 60th regular season shutout as Manager Peter Vermes’ men secured their first win by a 1-0 scoreline since October 2020. Houston, meanwhile, lost their third straight meeting in the series and have opened the season scoreless after two games for the first time in club history.
Veteran defender Graham Zusi—who this year has become the first player to spend 14 MLS seasons all with one club—headlined the Sporting Kansas City starting lineup with his 300th career start in MLS competitions. Elsewhere, midfield academy product Felipe Hernandez accounted for the lone change from last weekend’s road loss to Atlanta United FC by stepping in for the injured Uri Rosell.
On the opposite sideline, former Sporting greats Paulo Nagamura and Jimmy Nielsen presided on the Houston sideline as the club’s first-year head coach and assistant, respectively. Their first visit to Children’s Mercy Park as opposition proved unsuccessful, however, as Sporting would improve to 16-3-8 all-time in regular season home openers.
A pulsating atmosphere at Children’s Mercy Park sparked Vermes’ men in the early stages. Daniel Salloi, who opened his 2022 scoring account six days earlier in Atlanta, was first to threaten inside five minutes by juggling and pirouetting on the edge of the box before prompting Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark into a save.
Houston would spend the next several minutes on the backfoot as Sporting continued to control possession and territory. Hernandez and captain Johnny Russell both saw long-range efforts sail wayward near the half-hour mark, then center back Andreu Fontas had a shot blocked through traffic three minutes shy of intermission.
Four minutes after the restart, a pair of Sporting homegrowns combined brilliantly down the left channel as Salloi received a backheel return pass from Hernandez, slalomed past a defender and side-footed a shot marginally wide of the far post.
The hosts took a deserved lead in the 60th minute as Walter slotted home his second career MLS goal and his first at Children’s Mercy Park. Russell slithered past a duo of Dynamo defenders on the right edge of the box and played a cutback pass to Salloi, whose initial effort was repelled by Houston center back Tim Parker. The rebound fell invitingly to Walter, whose low drive split the wickets of Darwin Ceren and nestled into the corner of the net to give Sporting their first goal from the run of play in 2022.
Walter’s strike intensified proceedings, with Salloi and freshly minted Houston forward Sebastian Ferreira forcing saves from Clark and Melia in the moments that immediately followed.
In the 77th minute, seconds after 20-year-old Sporting winger Marinos Tzionis entered for his Children’s Mercy Park debut, Houston went remarkably close to leveling terms. A stray distribution from Melia was intercepted by substitute Darwin Quintero, whose chip shot from distance skimmed wide of the left post by a matter of inches. Shortly thereafter, former Sporting winger Tyler Pasher cut centrally onto his patented left peg and rifled a 20-yard blast straight at Melia.
As Houston committed numbers forward in search of an equalizer, Sporting had room to break on the counter and almost did so in glorious fashion with 86 minutes on the clock. Russell and Salloi connected on a lovely give-and-go before the latter had an off-balance shot on the breakaway palmed away by Clark. Not long later, Salloi hammered wide off a teasing Russell free kick curled to the back post.
Sporting’s early-season slate will resume next Saturday when the club ventures west to face the Colorado Rapids in an 8 p.m. CT kickoff at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The contest will air live on 38 the Spot and stream on the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.