Sporting suffers late 2-1 loss in drama-filled battle with LAFC

Via Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City (5-9-5, 20 points) suffered a last-gasp 2-1 loss to LAFC (8-3-5, 29 points) on Saturday night in a dramatic Western Conference encounter at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.

Alan Pulido fired Sporting ahead from the penalty spot in the 17th minute, scoring for the third consecutive game, but LAFC rallied in the second half by equalizing through Denil Maldonado and claiming all three points on Carlos Vela’s 90th-minute winner. Roger Espinoza thought he had pulled Sporting level on the cusp of full time, but VAR intervened and his headed goal was disallowed after the hosts were punished for a foul in the buildup to the play.

The gut-wrenching result snaps Sporting’s four-game home winning streak ahead of a trip to the LA Galaxy (3-9-4, 13 points) on Wednesday at Dignity Health Sports Park. Kickoff is slated for 9:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.

Manager Peter Vermes made two changes to Sporting’s starting lineup from a 4-1 home win over Austin FC last Saturday with Marinos Tzionis on international duty in Cyprus and Robert Voloder dropping to the bench. Center back Dany Rosero returned to the XI after missing two matches with a hamstring injury, while midfielder Gadi Kinda earned his 50th start for Sporting in all competitions, putting all three of Sporting’s Designated Players—Kinda, Pulido and Erik Thommy—in the starting lineup for only the fourth time this year.

Appearing in his eighth straight game between the posts, goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh spared Sporting’s blushes inside three minutes. Croatian winger Stipe Biuk did well to beat a pair of Sporting defenders, slaloming into the 18-yard area before seeing his close-range effort blocked by the in-form McIntosh.

LAFC duly paid for their missed opportunity 10 minutes later when Kinda won Sporting a penalty, knifing into the box and toppling to the turf under Maldonado’s clumsy slide tackle. Referee Rosendo Mendoza initially waved away Sporting’s penalty protestations, but VAR Younes Marrakchi prompted the head referee to take a second look at the play. Mendoza overturned his call and Pulido stepped to the spot, confidently smashing his attempt high into the left corner to ignite celebrations across the stadium. The Mexican striker has now scored in three straight MLS matches for the first time since May 2021 and leads MLS with five total goal contributions during the month of June, amassing four goals and an assist.

Riding a wave of palpable momentum, Sporting sought a second goal and almost unearthed it near the half-hour mark. Kinda and Daniel Salloi engaged in a slick combination play on the edge of the box before Kinda had his shot smothered from a tight angle. The chance was nevertheless emblematic of Sporting’s increased dominance as the first half continued to unfold. Remi Walter’s sledgehammer of a shot screamed narrowly over the crossbar in the 38th minute and Kinda set up Pulido for a curling strike that was saved by LAFC goalkeeper and 2022 MLS Cup MVP John McCarthy shortly thereafter.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo reshuffled his lineup at halftime to the tune of three impact substitutes as Vela and veteran defenders Jesus Murillo and Ryan Hollingshead entered the fray. The visitors were decidedly better after the break and drew level in the 48th minute, with Maldonado atoning for his earlier penalty concession by planting a header into the corner of the net off Mateusz Bogusz’s cross.

U.S. international defender Aaron Long thought he had given LAFC the lead three minutes later, nodding a powerful header past McIntosh off a well-delivered Vela free kick, but the center back was flagged offside by the slimmest of margins. At the opposite end, Sporting’s shouts for another penalty went ignored as Salloi appeared to be pulled by Hollingshead inside the box in the 54th minute.

Sporting sprang a dangerous attack in the 71st minute, flooding forward on a counterattack spearheaded by Walter. The Frenchman carried the ball more than 40 yards before spreading the ball left to Salloi, who then played to Espinoza on the overlap. The Honduran veteran then pulled the ball back to an unmarked Walter, but his ensuing shot was blocked through traffic.

LAFC grabbed their decisive second goal against the run of play with 90 minutes on the clock. After McIntosh boomed a long ball into the opponent’s defensive half, Long pinged the ball back into LAFC’s attacking third to an open Vela, who cashed in by slotting low into the right corner for his fifth MLS goal of the campaign.

Desperate for an equalizer, Sporting through numbers forward in the dying embers of the contest. In the 94th minute, Children’s Mercy Park erupted as Espinoza glanced a header into the net off Nemanja Radoja’s clipped cross from the left edge of the box. VAR would provide a final sting in the tale, however, as Sporting’s Khiry Shelton was penalized for a foul in the seconds prior to Espinoza’s nullified goal.

Sporting had a last throw of the dice in the 10th minute of second-half stoppage time, but Rosero’s off-balance header from substitute Johnny Russell’s free kick sailed over the bar.

2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 19
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 19,410
Weather: 84 degrees and sunny

Sporting Kansas City 2-1 LAFC
Sporting Kansas City (5-9-5, 20 points)
LAFC (8-3-5, 29 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Kendall McIntosh; Jake Davis (Johnny Russell 76′), Dany Rosero, Robert Castellanos, Tim Leibold (Roger Espinoza 59′); Nemanja Radoja, Remi Walter, Gadi Kinda (C) (Khiry Shelton 58′); Erik Thommy, Alan Pulido, Daniel Salloi

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Robert Voloder, Danny Flores, Felipe Hernandez, Stephen Afrifa

LAFC: John McCarthy; Julian Gaines (Jesus Murillo 46′), Denil Maldonado, Aaron Long, Diego Palacios (Ryan Hollingshead 46′); Erik Duenas, Ilie Sanchez (C) (Carlos Vela 46′), Daniel Crisostomo; Mateusz Bogusz, Nathan Ordaz (Yekeson Subah 77′), Stipe Biuk

Subs Not Used: Eldin Jakupovic, Christopher Jaime, Christian Torres

Scoring Summary:
SKC — Alan Pulido 5 (penalty kick) 17′
LAFC — Denil Maldonado 1 (Mateusz Bogusz 1) 48′
LAFC — Carlos Vela 5 (Aaron Long 1) 90′

Misconduct Summary:
SKC — Dany Rosero (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 50′
LAFC — Mateusz Bogusz (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 59′
LAFC — Stipe Biuk (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 65′

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
Assistant Referee: Adam Garner
Assistant Referee: Adam Wienckowski
Fourth Official: Natalie Simon
VAR: Younes Marrakchi
AVAR: Jeff Muschik

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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