By Sam Kovzan – Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City (7-15-5, 26 points) swept aside the Portland Timbers (7-8-12, 33 points) with a rampant 4-1 victory at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night.
Unplayable striker Willy Agada struck twice—becoming the third player in Kansas City history to score five goals in his first five regular season appearances for the club—with Andreu Fontas and Erik Thommy also finding the back of the net in a wire-to-wire performance against the hapless Timbers, who managed a late consolation goal through Sebastian Blanco.
Enjoying their best attacking form of the year, Sporting has amassed 11 regular season goals over a three-game stretch for the first time since the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign and notched four goals in back-to-back home matches for the first time since May 2015. The result also snapped a seven-game winless skid against Portland, which suffered its most lopsided defeat of the 2022 season.
Convincing winners in two of their last three matches, Sporting will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday by hosting the San Jose Earthquakes (6-11-9, 27 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the clash are available at SeatGeek.com and the contest will be shown live on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.
For the first time since April 2017, Sporting has rolled out an unchanged lineup in three straight regular season matches. Sunday’s 4-3-3 setup saw the in-form Agada flanked by captain Johnny Russell and winger Daniel Salloi in attack, backed by the midfield trio of Thommy, Remi Walter and Roger Espinoza. Fontas, Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Ben Sweat manned the backline and 21-year-old goalkeeper John Pulskamp stepped between the posts.
The hosts crafted the game’s first scoring chance in the 10th minute when Thommy’s corner kick to the near post was headed across the face of goal by Espinoza and nodded over the bar by a tightly marked Fontas on the edge of the six-yard area. Espinoza asked further questions of the Portland defense six minutes later, slipping a clever through ball in behind for Agada, but the Nigerian’s effort lacked the pace and direction to beat Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic.
Agada lifted Sporting into a deserved lead on the half-hour mark. Afforded space on the right wing, Zusi fizzed in a teasing cross that Portland center back Larrys Mabiala failed to usher clear. The ball fell kindly to Agada, who sent a thumping finish into the roof of the net for his fourth goal in three matches. The 22-year-old is the first Sporting player to bag four goals in a three-game stretch since Russell did so last October and is tied for second in MLS with four goals during the month of August.
Brimming with momentum, Sporting doubled their advantage in the 40th minute with the 1,200th regular season goal in club history. With the Timbers pegged on the backfoot, a pinball sequence in the penalty box culminated with Fontas muscling into possession, swiveling and slamming a left-footed bomb into the left corner past a helpless Ivacic. The 32-year-old Fontas has now scored goals in consecutive league matches for the first time in his heralded career, having opened his 2022 account in last weekend’s 4-3 loss at Austin FC.
Not to be outdone, Thommy blew the roof off Children’s Mercy Park three minutes later with a world-class strike from 25 yards. Agada chased a long ball, turned centrally with his back to goal and laid the ball off to Thommy, who buried a sublime curler into the right corner for his second goal of his young and blossoming MLS career. Remarkably, the long-range stunner made Sporting the first team in MLS history to net three first-half goals in three consecutive matches.
After dominating the first half, Sporting had Pulskamp to thank for preserving the team’s clean sheet shortly after the restart. The Homegrown keeper first raced off his line and got a paw on the ball to prevent Yimmi Chara from firing a shot on the breakaway, then produced a phenomenal save on the rebound by retreating and touching Sebastian Blanco’s audacious 30-yard curler over the crossbar. Not long later, Pulskamp dropped low to smother Dairon Asprilla’s close-range attempt off a Santiago Moreno cross.
Bursting forward with conviction, Sporting went agonizingly close to notching a fourth goal in the 54th minute. Salloi led the breakaway and fed and overlapping Agada, who cut the ball back for Russell. The Scottish winger had his shot cast aside by Ivacic before Agada thundered a right-footed volley inches high.
Immediately thereafter at the opposite end, Pulskamp made another superb diving save to thwart Asprilla at a tight angle. The end-to-end action continued to unfold enticingly as Thommy and Zusi nearly combined at the hour juncture and Moreno belted a 20-yard shot marginally over the bar in the 63rd minute.
After Pulskamp did brilliantly to deny Asprilla once more in the 73rd minute, Agada put the finishing touches on a masterclass performance with 75 minutes on the clock. Sweat surged down the left channel and swept an inch-perfect cross into the path of Agada, who poked home from near the penalty spot to become the second player in Sporting history to net five goals in the span of three regular season appearances, joining Eddie Johnson from 2007. Agada is also the third player in Sporting history to hit five goals in his first five regular season appearances for the club, joining Felipe Gutierrez from 2018 and Miklos Molnar in 2000.
Blanco added an inconsequential goal for the Timbers in the 90th minute, denying Pulskamp a clean sheet despite the keeper’s stout display in goal. The close-range tally was initially waved off for offside, but VAR intervened and referee Armando Villarreal awarded the goal upon looking at the replay.