Alan Pulido brace helps Sporting to wild 2-2 draw at Houston

Forward Alan Pulido continued his sensational summer surge on Saturday by scoring twice to help Sporting Kansas City (6-10-7, 25 points) secure a 2-2 road draw against Houston Dynamo FC (8-9-4, 28 points) at Shell Energy Stadium.

In a wild encounter between longtime Western Conference rivals, Pulido twice gave Sporting the lead to move into a tie for third in the MLS Golden Boot race with 10 league goals this season. Houston replied in stoppage time of both halves, equalizing through Ibrahim Aliyu on the brink of intermission and in the 98th minute through substitute Ivan Franco to avoid its second home defeat of 2023.

There will be no rest for the weary as Sporting returns to the pitch on Wednesday, hosting another bitter adversary in Real Salt Lake (9-7-6, 33 points) at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. CT showdown are available at and fans can catch the action live on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.

Manager Peter Vermes made one change to Sporting’s starting XI from a 3-0 win over Vancouver last Saturday. German midfielder Erik Thommy, who scored off the bench a week ago, returned to the lineup as Nemanja Radoja missed out with an adductor injury. Further up the field, homegrown forward Daniel Salloi hit a notable milestone by earning his 150th career start for Sporting in all competitions.

With temperatures hovering at a humid 90 degrees by kickoff, both sides exchanged early half-chances as Sporting defender Andreu Fontas had a shot saved by veteran goalkeeper Steve Clark before Houston’s Nelson Quinones dragged a volley wide of the near post.

In the 24th minute, Sporting goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh was called to action for the first time as he dropped low to coral a snap header from Aliyu, who had risen to meet a teasing right-wing cross from full back Franco Escobar.

Less than a minute later, red-hot Pulido fired Sporting in front on a delectable assist from Kinda. Fontas kickstarted the play by winning the ball near midfield and pinging a 30-yard pass into the attacking third. With his back to goal, Kinda flicked a mouthwatering back-heel delivery into the path of Pulido, who made no mistake by dinking a cool finish over the advanced Clark. Pulido has scored in six of his last seven appearances, while Kinda has assisted in back-to-back matches and has seven career goal contributions (four goals, three assists) in as many games against Houston.

Pulido’s strike gave Sporting a lead to protect and put Houston in an unfamiliar spot, as the Dynamo had trailed at home for only 18 minutes all season entering Saturday. Longtime Mexican international Hector Herrera almost drew the hosts level on 43 minutes, but his blistering free kick from nearly 35 yards was parried over the bar by McIntosh.

Sporting were less fortunate on the stroke of halftime. A well-orchestrated Houston attack through the middle culminated with Aliyu slotting into an empty net following a back-heel nutmeg from Corey Baird that broke Sporting’s defensive line and a simple square pass from Herrera to set up the Dynamo striker for his first career goal.

Another wave of Houston pressure in the 48th minute required McIntosh to produce a smart reflex save, denying Baird what would have been a go-ahead goal. Shortly thereafter, Quinones beat his marker along the left endline and fizzed a dangerous cutback ball across the face of the six-yard area, but Sporting left back Tim Leibold intervened crucially by booming the ball clear upfield.

After setting up Sporting’s opener in the first half, Kinda won the penalty for his team’s second goal in the 60th minute by drawing a foul on Artur near the endline. Referee Nima Saghafi promptly pointed to the spot, ushering Pulido into the spotlight. The Mexican striker sent Clark the wrong way, side-footing his penalty low into the right corner for his team-leading 11th goal of the season in all competitions and his ninth MLS goal in a torrid seven-game stretch since the start of June. Pulido, who has converted all six of his career penalty attempts in a Sporting uniform, now ranks first in club history with 0.47 goals per game in the regular season (minimum 20 goals).

Artur tried to atone for his penalty concession with a speculative strike from beyond the penalty area that curled narrowly over the crossbar midway through the second half. Herrera then went close in the 69th minute, planting an open header high of the target.

The Dynamo piled men forward in search of a late leveler. With 85 minutes on the clock, Escobar wasted an open look by dragging his shot wide from the right side of the box. Shortly after Saghafi issued an eye-watering 10 minutes of stoppage time to be played, McIntosh dove left for an strong save to deny Herrera what would have been a clutch free kick goal.

Sporting’s bid for three points was cut short at the death, with Franco latching onto Thor Ulfarsson’s hopeful header into the box and finishing low into the far corner for his second goal of the campaign, bringing the score to 2-2.

Petulance marred the final moments of the match as Houston substitute Sebastian Ferreira blatantly pushed Kinda to the turf in a dead ball situation, yet escaped with only a yellow card for his reckless and violent transgression.

2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 23
Shell Energy Stadium | Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,489
Weather: 90 degrees and sunny

Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Houston Dynamo FC
Sporting Kansas City (6-10-7, 25 points)
Houston Dynamo FC (8-9-4, 28 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Kendall McIntosh; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold (Logan Ndenbe 75′); Remi Walter, Erik Thommy (Khiry Shelton 75′), Gadi Kinda; Johnny Russell (Roger Espinoza 66′), Alan Pulido (Robert Castellanos 90′), Daniel Salloi (Marinos Tzionis 66′)

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Cam Duke, Danny Flores, Stephen Afrifa

Houston Dynamo FC: Steve Clark; Franco Escobar, Erik Sviachenko, Ethan Bartlow, Daniel Steres (Brad Smith 88′); Artur, Hector Herrera (C); Corey Baird (Ivan Franco 78′), Amine Bassi, Nelson Quinones (Thor Ulfarsson 68′); Ibrahim Aliyu (Sebastian Ferreira 78′)

Subs Not Used: Xavier Valdez, Griffin Dorsey, Chase Gasper, Luis Caicedo, Brooklyn Raines

Scoring Summary:
SKC — Alan Pulido 9 (Gadi Kinda 4, Andreu Fontas 1) 25′
HOU — Ibrahim Aliyu 1 (Hector Herrera 8, Corey Baird 3) 45+2′
SKC — Alan Pulido 10 (penalty kick) 62′
HOU — Ivan Franco 2 (Thor Ulfarsson 1, Hector Herrera 9) 90+8′

Misconduct Summary:
HOU — Thor Ulfarsson (yellow card; dissent) 49′
HOU — Hector Herrera (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 50′
SKC — Dany Rosero (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 65′
HOU — Sebastian Ferreira (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+10′
SKC — Tim Leibold (yellow card; dissent) 90+11′

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Nima Saghafi
Assistant Referee: Jeffrey Swartzel
Assistant Referee: Kail Smith
Fourth Official: Alyssa Nichols
VAR: Jair Marrufo
AVAR: Kaili Terry

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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