Sporting Kansas City (9-15-7, 34 points) cruised to a 3-0 win over D.C. United (7-18-6, 27 points) on Tuesday night behind a shutout from MLS debutant goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh and goals from Khiry Shelton, Robert Voloder and Daniel Salloi.
Shelton set Sporting on their way 11 minutes before halftime and Voloder bagged his first goal for the club to seal the result midway through the second half. Salloi added a spectacular third in the dying embers and McIntosh, making his first appearance in Sporting blue, made two impressive saves as part of a commanding performance between the posts.
Boasting a 4-1-2 record and 2.42 goals per game since the start of August, Sporting are unbeaten in a season-best five matches and will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday when regional rivals Minnesota United FC (13-12-6, 45 points) visits Children’s Mercy Park for a 7:30 p.m. CT showdown. Tickets are available at SeatGeek.com and the contest will be shown live on 38 The Spot, SportingKC.com and the Sporting KC app.
Just 72 hours removed from a scoreless draw at Houston Dynamo FC, Sporting reshuffled its starting lineup to the tune of six changes. At the forefront, McIntosh landed his club and MLS debut after featuring periodically for Sporting KC II over the last two seasons. In front of him, Voloder relieved Isimat-Mirin in central defense, midfielders Cam Duke and Roger Espinoza replaced Felipe Hernandez and Erik Thommy, and forwards Shelton and Marinos Tzionis stepped in for Willy Agada and Johnny Russell.
Salloi was at the center of Sporting’s first major scoring opportunity in the 18th minute, feinting a turn right with his back to goal before dropping his left shoulder and beating D.C. defender Andy Najar near the right endline. His driven cutback pass fizzed invitingly across the face of goal to Tzionis, whose lunging close-range effort under duress lifted over the crossbar. Five minutes later, Tzionis tried his luck with a speculative 30-yard free kick that beat the four-man wall but skipped wide of the target.
The hosts ascended into a deserved 1-0 lead with 34 minutes on the clock. Tzionis found a pocket of open space on the right side of the penalty area and clipped a low, curling cross into the middle, where Shelton slid at full stretch to apply a tidy finishing touch into the far left corner to open his 2022 MLS scoring account and bag his third goal of the campaign in all competitions.
Not long after landing the first punch, Sporting survived a fleeting scare when former English Premier League striker Christian Benteke had a shot blocked through traffic. Sporting were quick to respond at the opposite end, however, with 19-year-old right back Kayden Pierre blazing down the flank, beating multiple defenders and sending a deflected shot high and wide of the near post in the 39th minute.
Hernandez and Thommy were summoned as halftime replacements for Duke and Espinoza, respectively, and it was Thommy who nearly created Sporting’s second goal of the night. The 28-year-old German dashed goalward on a quickfire counter attack and unleashed a looping cross from the left wing. Shelton leapt high above the rest in search of his brace, but D.C. goalkeeper David Ochoa pounced quickly to corral the ball and extinguish the danger.
Near the hour mark, McIntosh made the first save of his MLS career in impressive fashion, dropping low at the near post to smother a diving header from forward Ola Kamara off Chris Odoi-Atsem’s teasing cross.
Agada and Russell provided offensive firepower from off the bench in the 61st minute, and the Sporting captain went close to doubling his side’s advantage five minutes after his introduction. Hernandez did brilliantly to spring free on the counter attack, gallop goalward and spread the ball right to the on-running Russell, whose right-footed strike flashed across Ochoa and missed the target by a matter of inches.
Sporting went 2-0 to the good on 70 minutes thanks to a blistering hit from Voloder. Hernandez’s in-swinging corner kick from the left flag was nodded clear only as far as the 21-year-old German on the opposite side of the box. The center back took a settling touch and uncorked a low sledgehammer that screamed through a slew of bodies before nestling into the back of the net.
Licking their wounds, D.C. replied admirably by orchestrating their best scoring chance as substitute Nigel Robertha squared low on the breakaway to Benteke in the 74th minute, but the Belgian was denied at the doorstep with McIntosh producing a superb stop to preserve his clean sheet. Benteke asked further questions of the Sporting defense a few minutes later, chesting down a long ball and buccaneering through the middle only to be denied by the sliding Pierre, who put his body in the way to block the shot.
Salloi added icing to Sporting’s delectable cake with an emphatic long-range strike in the 87th minute. After Thommy had his shot blocked on the breakaway, Salloi regained possession on the left edge of the box, cut centrally and took a few dribbles before thumping an inch-perfect 22-yarder into the far right corner for his ninth goal of the season in all competitions and his second in as many home appearances. Salloi’s 38 regular season goals are now tied with Kei Kamara for seventh most in club history, one behind Chris Klein in sixth.