By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1
Sporting Kansas City is Champions League-ready following the conclusion of their 2019 preseason run with 4-1 and 1-1 results in split-squad matches at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.
In the first match, Houston Dynamo was quick to take the early lead in the 5th minute, as Alberth Elis picked up a loose ball and fired it past Tim Melia into the bottom corner.
Houston’s short victory did not last long—Johnny Russell curled in a beautiful shot off of a cross by Krisztián Németh to level the match in the 11th minute.
Regaining possession and some confidence, Felipe Gutierrez put Sporting KC back ahead after sliding one in from Seth Sinovic. The goal was initially ruled out for offside but was allowed after the play underwent review from the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
Six minutes later, Németh scored by firing into the corner from Gerso after Sporting KC forced a turnover—bringing the tally up 3-1.
Sinovic came close to adding another goal to Sporting KC’s score—after sending one from down the middle in the 41st minute. However, his chance went straight into Joe Willis’ arms; ending the first half 3-1.
The tide turned as Houston’s Romell Quioto tried to score a corner, but Matt Besler was quick to deny it. Then, a header by Mauro Manotas went straight to Melia. Despite all efforts, Sporting KC’s backline continued to pressure and keep Houston away from the goal as they pushed forward.
Late in the second half, both sides shared a red card each, as first Quioto was shown a straight red for a sliding challenge on Gutierrez, and then Roger Espinoza was ejected for a pair of yellow cards. This forced both teams to play with ten men, but it didn’t stop the momentum.
Just when it seemed the match would end 3-1, Graham Zusi freed Nemeth from the backline, who took the ball and clipped it over Dynamo’s goalkeeper to make the final score 4-1.
In the other split-squad match on a separate field at Kino Sports Complex, Sporting KC battled to a 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo.
Similar to the first game, both sides traded plays until Yohan Croizet opened up the scoring for Sporting KC with a right-footed, 30-yard strike. Shortly after the break, Memo Rodriguez got the equalizer. After a chippy half, the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Sporting KC will continue to train in Arizona before returning to a chilly Kansas City to host Toluca FC on Thursday, Feb. 21 for the first-leg of the Champions League.
Featured image: @SportingKC
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1
Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale