Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City
In front of a record-setting regular season crowd of 21,650 fans at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting KC (8-11-8, 32 pts.) stunned first-place St. Louis CITY SC (15-10-2, 47 pts.) on Saturday as Alan Pulido scored twice in the come-from-behind victory to secure all three points in the first-ever meeting between the rivals in Kansas City.
Pulido, who missed all of the 2022 season due to knee surgery, continued his MLS Comeback Player of the Year campaign with his fourth brace in the past 10 matches and the sixth multi-goal game of his MLS regular season career, tying Johnny Russell for fourth most in club history. The Mexican striker has been in red-hot form this summer with an MLS-best 11 goals since the start of June and the World Cup veteran is now fourth in the MLS Golden Boot race with a dozen MLS goals in 2023.
Coming off a 3-0 victory last weekend at home against San Jose, Sporting KC started strong and nearly opened the scoring in the 15th minute on Saturday. Logan Ndenbe won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area and Erik Thommy stepped up to strike the set piece with aplomb, forcing a strong save from Roman Burki to keep out the effort.
Instead, it was the visitors that took the 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. Sam Adeniran chased down a long ball from Indiana Vassilev and dribbled into the penalty area before unleashing a well-struck shot inside the far post for his sixth goal of the season.
Up 1-0 for a 17th time this season, St. Louis was previously unbeaten with a 14-0-2 record when scoring first in the club’s inaugural season across all competitions. However, that streak would come to an end as Pulido sparked the rally in the 31st minute.
Thommy, surrounded by seven St. Louis defenders, scooped a sublime pass to Daniel Salloi, who settled the ball with his first touch and played a pinpoint pass to Pulido with his second touch to set up the equalizer in front of the KC Cauldron. Salloi now has seven goals and seven assists this season in all competitions and the 27-year-old has scored or assisted in four straight regular season appearances.
Riding the shift in momentum, Sporting struck for the eventual game-winning goal on the cusp of halftime with Pulido’s second goal of the night again coming on an assist from a Sporting KC Academy product in the 44th minute. Right back Jake Davis combined on a give-and-go with Thommy along the right touchline before cutting inside the 18-yard-box past a pair of St. Louis defenders and picking out Pulido at the penalty spot for a climactic first-time finish.
In his fourth season with the club, Pulido now has 26 goals in 55 regular season games to move atop Sporting’s all-time goals per game chart. Additionally, Thommy leads Sporting with 11 assists in all competitions this season after recording the first multi-assist match of his MLS career.
St. Louis CITY SC made three changes at the halftime intermission, bringing on Designated Players Joao Klauss and Eduard Lowen for the second half and momentarily looked to have leveled the score in the 51st minute when Adeniran found the back of the net only to see the assistant referee raise the offside flag.
With St. Louis pushing numbers forward, Sporting Kansas City sprung on the counter in the 73rd minute and nearly extended the lead. Thommy played the pivotal pass to find Salloi in a one-on-one situation with Burki, however the St. Louis City SC goalkeeper did well to turn away two attempts from Salloi in short succession. Moments later, Burki was called into action again to thwart Russell from close range on the ensuing corner kick with his fourth and final save of the match.
On the opposite end, St. Louis’ first shot of the second half would come in the 77th minute as Lowen set his sights on spoiling the party with a late breakthrough only to see Tim Melia dive at full extension to his left to push away the curling effort from 25 yards out.
With the victory, Sporting Kansas City moves within two points of playoff position with seven matches remaining in the regular season. After back-to-back home matches, Sporting Kansas City will return to the road next Saturday for the club’s first-ever match-up with Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and the cross-conference clash against the Leagues Cup champions will be broadcast live on Apple TV in English and Spanish for MLS Season Pass subscribers.