Willy Agada’s first-half strike propelled Sporting Kansas City (11-15-7, 40 points) to the club’s sixth straight home win in a 1-0 result against Seattle Sounders FC (12-17-4, 40 points) on Sunday afternoon at sunny Children’s Mercy Park.
Agada, a mid-summer acquisition who has spearheaded Sporting’s seven-match unbeaten run dating back to August, moved into a tie atop Sporting’s 2022 scoring charts with his eighth goal of the campaign in the 41st minute. The Sounders, who mustered a single shot on target compared to Sporting’s 11, needed to win on the penultimate weekend of the regular season in order to preserve their playoff hopes, but the defeat means they will miss the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history after a run of 13 consecutive appearances.
Sporting are also assured of missing the postseason ahead of next Sunday’s regular season finale at FC Dallas, but Manager Peter Vermes’ men have hit their stride over the last two months with a 6-1-2 record since the start of August, the second best mark in MLS during that time. Goalkeeper John Pulskamp picked up the shutout on Sunday—the club’s fourth in the last six games and the most in MLS since Aug. 27—to help Sporting post its first six-game home winning streak since 2017.
A boisterous sellout crowd created a palpable buzz fitting for the occasion as Sporting were first to threaten inside six minutes. Forward Daniel Salloi galloped down the left wing before pinging a square pass to the top of the box, and although the ball was cut out by a Seattle defender, Salloi pounced by continuing his run and striking low to the near post and forcing Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei into his first of 10 saves. Frei produced another stop seven minutes later, diving left to cast aside Erik Thommy’s audacious long-range piledriver from 30 yards.
Thommy was at the heart of Sporting’s attack once more in the 16th minute, barreling goalward from a central position before losing possession in a tangle with Seattle center back Xavier Arreaga. Sporting striker Willy Agada snapped up the loose ball and uncorked a seething effort that Frei palmed away before Johnny Russell’s rebound attempt was blocked through traffic.
Having weathered an early storm, the Sounders replied with a well-orchestrated chance of their own in the 25th minute. Midfield talisman Nicolas Lodeiro made a clever run in behind the Sporting defense and cut the ball across the face of goal to U.S. international Cristian Roldan, whose first-time shot was blocked crucially by Ben Sweat near the goal line.
Sporting’s Nigerian forward would give his side the breakthrough goal, but not before Frei did brilliantly to deny Agada with a double-save near the half-hour juncture. Seattle’s in-form gloveman thwarted Thommy a moment later, but the one-way traffic was merely a precursor to the match-winner.
Four minutes shy of intermission, Salloi ran onto a perfectly weighted pass from Remi Walter and swung in a low cross from the left wing. Agada adjusted well by reaching out his left leg to secure possession and poke a clever finish low past Frei for his 10th goal contribution in his past nine games. Agada, who has eight goals in his last eight starts, now ranks first in club history with 0.73 goals per match among players who have scored at least five times. Salloi, meanwhile, earned the assist and leads the team in both assists (five) and goal contributions (12) in 2022.
Seven minutes after the restart, Russell went close to doubling the lead with a slaloming run to the top of the box and a shot that fizzed inches wide. Thommy ignited a breakaway shortly thereafter by intercepting a pass and playing to Roger Espinoza, who put Salloi through on goal, but Frei came up with another clutch stop to keep the score at 1-0.
At the hour mark, Seattle forward Fredy Montero went down inside the box under a challenge from Andreu Fontas. Referee Unkel did not award a foul on the pay, but VAR Ismir Pekmic prompted the head official to take a second look at midfield. The VAR review did nothing to change Unkel’s mind and the original call was upheld, much to the hosts’ relief.
Seattle drove the game for the next 15 minutes, but Sporting remained compact defensively and stifled the visitors in the final third. Backline reinforcements came in the form of Kortne Ford and Kayden Pierre as Sporting effectively put the game to bed with little trouble in the dying embers of the contest.
Sporting will close the curtains on 2022 next Sunday with a visit to playoff-bound FC Dallas (13-9-11, 50 points) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. CT with live coverage on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.