Sporting and RSL battle to exciting 2-2 draw

Wingers Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell scored first-half goals and goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh had an MLS career-high seven saves as Sporting Kansas City (6-10-8, 26 points) battled Real Salt Lake (9-7-7, 33 points) to an exciting 2-2 draw in an end-to-end battle on Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

The hosts carried a two-goal lead into halftime after Salloi and Russell struck six minutes apart near the half-hour juncture, but Real Salt Lake extended its impressive road unbeaten streak to eight MLS matches and 11 games in all competitions after Danny Musovski and Anderson Julio found the back of the net in the second stanza to level terms.

Sporting will now prepare for its final MLS fixture before Leagues Cup takes center stage, with Manager Peter Vermes’ side venturing south to face Austin FC in an 8:30 p.m. CT showdown on Saturday. Fans can follow the action from Q2 Stadium live on Apple TV, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.

Vermes made one change to his starting XI from Saturday’s 2-2 stalemate in Houston as Nemanja Radoja returned to the lineup in place of fellow midfielder Gadi Kinda, who went the full 90 minutes over the weekend for the first time since returning from knee surgery. In defense, veteran center back Andreu Fontas hit a notable milestone by earning his 100th career start in MLS competitions.

After both sides acclimated to wickedly hot, 90-degree playing conditions, the game burst to life midway through the first period. Sporting midfielder Remi Walter nearly sprung in-form striker Alan Pulido free with a pinpoint through ball in the 22nd minute, but RSL goalkeeper Gavin Beavers advanced off his line to snuff out the chance. At the opposite end, MLS debutant Nelson Palacio had a long-range piledriver cast aside by McIntosh before Bryan Oviedo rattled the woodwork with a shot of his own from distance.

Sporting drew first blood with 30 minutes on the clock. Running onto a well-weighted pass from Nemanja Radoja, Russell clipped a delicious cross to the back stick for Salloi, who still had work to do but nevertheless finished expertly inside the near post to ignite celebrations across the stadium. Salloi now has five MLS goals in 2023 and 43 regular season goals in his career, tying Austin FC coaching duo Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff for fourth most in club history.

Six minutes later, Sporting doubled their advantage as Russell turned from provider to goal scorer. Midfielder Erik Thommy settled a square pass from Jake Davis on the right edge of the penalty box and pinged a ball centrally to Russell, who secured possession, swiftly cut past a defender and hammered high into the roof of the net with his weaker right foot. Russell now has 97 combined goals (56) and assists (41) for Sporting in all competitions, tying Chris Klein for third most in club history. Thommy, meanwhile, tabbed his sixth assist since the start of May, tied for third most in MLS during that time.

Pulido had a fleeting chance to add a third on the cusp of intermission, but his off-balance effort under duress fizzed wide.

RSL were a much-improved team during the final 45 minutes, due in part to the effect of three halftime substitutions as Cristian Arango, Diego Luna and Pablo Ruiz entered the fray. Arango, making his second appearance for the club after scoring in his RSL debut on Saturday in a 4-0 home win over Orlando, had an instant impact by recording his first assist 36 seconds into the second half. The Colombian forward slipped a simple through ball to the feet of Danny Musovski, who finished high into the net for his fifth league goal of the campaign.

McIntosh thwarted Arango twice in the next few minutes, diving to block a low strike and then a header off a corner kick. Shortly thereafter, he added another save by denying Oviedo’s drive from the right side of the box.

Davis very nearly had his second assist of the night in the 63rd minute, running onto a diagonal ball over the top before finding Salloi with a cutback pass on the edge of the six-yard area. Just as Salloi was about to strike, Luna flew in with a well-timed tackle to extinguish the danger.

RSL restored parity in the 72nd minute and in controversial fashion. Sporting defender Dany Rosero had the ball at his feet and was aggressively dispossessed by Julio, who clattered the center back to the ground and scooped up the loose ball prior to tucking a shot low underneath the advancing McIntosh to level the score at 2-2. Sporting fans vehemently voiced protested for a foul on Julio, but referee Rubiel Vazquez saw no transgression and Julio’s goal stood.

Salloi and Walter both had speculative efforts go begging near the 80-minute mark before RSL broke on the counterattack in the final minute of normal time. Julio was clear through on goal and poised to bag his second goal of the game on the breakaway, but McIntosh produced a stunning save with his outstretched glove to keep his side alive.

Sporting went agonizingly close to grabbing all three points in the 91st minute, but Kinda’s close-range header was somehow kept out by Beavers.

2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 24
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 17,924
Weather: 90 degrees and partly cloudy

Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City (6-10-8, 26 points)
Real Salt Lake (9-7-7, 33 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Kendall McIntosh; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold; Nemanja Radoja, Erik Thommy (Gadi Kinda 57′), Remi Walter; Johnny Russell (C) (Marinos Tzionis 57′), Alan Pulido, Daniel Salloi

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Logan Ndenbe, Robert Voloder, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Stephen Afrifa, Khiry Shelton

Real Salt Lake: Gavin Beavers; Emeka Eneli, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Andrew Brody; Andres Gomez (Diego Luna 46′), Nelson Palacio (Braian Ojeda 79′), Jasper Loffelsend (Pablo Ruiz 46′), Bryan Oviedo; Damir Kreilach (C) (Cristian Arango 46′), Danny Musovski (Anderson Julio 69′)

Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Bode Hidalgo, Bertin Jacquesson, Brayan Vera

Scoring Summary:
SKC — Daniel Salloi 5 (Johnny Russell 2, Nemanja Radoja 1) 30′
SKC — Johnny Russell 3 (Erik Thommy 6, Jake Davis 1) 36′
RSL — Danny Musovski 5 (Cristian Arango 1, Pablo Ruiz 7) 46′
RSL — Anderson Julio (unassisted) 72′

Misconduct Summary:
RSL — Cristian Arango (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 67′
RSL — Pablo Ruiz (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 87′

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Rubiel Vazquez
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Assistant Referee: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
Fourth Official: Calin Radosav
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal
AVAR: Gjovalin Bori

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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