Tag Archives: Sporting Kansas City

Decision Day: Can the Timbers clinch a playoff spot at home?

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Following a chippy 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City this past Sunday night, the Portland Timbers are taking the point and the fight for a playoffs spot back home to Providence Park.

In a night full of trading cards and goals – Sebastian Blanco notched the opening goal in the 29th minute. However, Krisztián Nemeth cut the celebrations after finding the equalizer just moments later.

Then chaos ensued.

A brief altercation broke out in the 35th minute after Felipe Gutierrez and Brian Rodriguez collided on the sidelines that ultimately led to both Rodriguez and Roger Espinoza receiving red cards and were ejected from the match.

Head Coach Giovanni Savarese disagreed with the decision telling media during the postmatch conference:

“To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody should [have been] thrown out, from what I saw,” said Savarese. “From what I saw it got heated, but no, I think a lot of yellow card situations there. So I have to be honest that I haven’t seen it yet, I just heard that it wasn’t as much as they made it seem like.”

Steve Clark who rose to the occasion during the midseason after starter Jeff Attinella suffered a season-ending injury, made three saves to keep the match level.

Savarese said of Clark’s performance: “He’s done fairly well. We said from the beginning he is an important player. [And] that’s why we put him in. We felt very content to have two goalkeepers like Jeff [Attinella] and [Steve] Clark – that we knew what they’re going to give us. And we’re very content [he would] step up to help us out. I think he made some good saves.”

Sporting KC immediately regained the lead in the 46th minute after Daniel Salloi hit home the rebound scoring his first goal of the season.

In the 85th minute, a penalty was awarded to the Timbers after Ilie Sanchez tackles Jeremy Ebobisse in the penalty area. Darien Asprilla converts the goal leveling the match and giving the Timbers a hard-fought point on the road.

Although everything went their way score-wise across the league with a loss from both FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes, it all comes down to Decision Day.

But it comes with an added challenge.

After Savarese stated the club would be appealing Fernandez’s suspension; the club has since rescinded the appeal Wednesday based on new evidence – leaving them without their star forward for the big matchup. In addition to Diego Valeri still questionable due to tightness in his calf he acquired in Kansas City.

But maybe luck will be on Portland’s side as the Earthquakes are currently on a five-game losing streak and are a point below the line. As well, losing defender Tommy Thompson to a red card during their previous match against the Seattle Sounders.

The Timbers will look to clinch a playoffs spot at home when they face the Earthquakes on Sunday, October 6.

“It’s a must win. That’s all it is,” said Zarek Valentin.

Featured image: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC Falls to Real Salt Lake In 2-1 Loss

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Coming off of a strong win in Seattle, Sporting Kansas City fell back into old ways dropping points to rival Real Salt Lake in a 2-1 loss at Children’s Mercy Park.

The match kicked off to a rocky start with winger Gerso Fernandes forced to leave the pitch early in the sixth minute due to an ankle injury. Daniel Salloi came off the bench to take his place in helping the team maintain possession of the ball.

Johnny Russell put SKC on the board in the 31st minute with a free kick. But seven minutes later, Corey Baird was quick to respond for the visitors and leveled the match. 

The home side had a chance to restore their lead after being awarded a penalty kick when RSL’s Donny Toia tripped Russell from behind inside the box. Felipe Gutierrez stepped up to convert but he watched as the ball rattled off the left post – sending them into the half tied up 1-1.

The visitors found their lead in the 70th minute when Jefferson Savarino picked out an unmarked Baird who tucked in a left footed shot into the bottom right corner for a brace.

The home team petitioned for a penalty in the 73rd minute after Gutierrez went down under Aaron Herrera’s lunging challenge and with the support of the crowd chanting for VAR – referee Fotis Bazakos reviewed the play but stood by the call of no penalty.

Things took a turn for the worst in the 84th minute when Sporting lost their second player of the match. Salloi was shown a straight red for a hard tackle on Damir Kreilach when he clipped the midfielder studs up, reducing the home side to 10 men for the duration of the match.

Sporting KC watched as their chances of playoff contention diminished further last night but is it too late? Maybe.

With ten games left in the regular season and still sitting in tenth place with 28 points and a -6 goal differential, every game from now on is crucial for SKC.

“I’m not giving up,” Peter Vermes told the press during the post match press conference.

Sporting KC will now look to bounce back in a mid-week fixture when the team visits Orlando City.

Featured image: Peaty Romano

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC turning things around following 3-0 shutout in Vancouver

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering a tough first half of the season, Sporting Kansas City is finally turning things around in back-to-back shutouts.

It seems the only thing the club will have to claim at customs (as they return home) is three points they earned in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road Saturday night at BC Place.

Gerso Fernandes helped lift Sporting KC to their second straight win by playing a part in all three goals, having scored two of them himself.

For the first time this season, Peter Vermes fielded the same starting XI he used in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire last weekend; giving the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath, and Seth Sinovic their fourth clean sheet in five regular-season matches as a defensive unit.

Tim Melia returned to peak performance after recording six saves to earn his 58th win this season – surpassing the record of Jimmy Nielsen and becoming the new all-time leader in wins since joining the club in 2015.

Controlling over 60% possession throughout the match, Sporting KC pressured Vancouver’s defense before finding the opening goal in the 24th minute.

With Sporting KC in search of a second goal and Vancouver looking to level the match, both sides created chances just before the half. The visitors came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet’s volley was re-directed by Salloi and went straight to MacMath at close range.

Melia came up huge to turn away Inbeom Hwang’s free kick in the 48th minute. Moments later, 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair‘s shot misses narrowly wide of the post.

Sporting KC kicked it into high gear after the restart. Felipe Gutierrez wasted no time and immediately doubled the lead with a strike from the top of the box; sneaking it in past MacMath in the 56th minute.

The boys continued the fight to close out the game on a good note, something they had struggled with all season-long. The Whitecaps came close to pulling one back in the 76th minute. But Yordy Reyna’s free-kick ricocheted off the post. Sporting KC went on to threaten for a third goal for the duration of the second half; forcing MacMath to make double saves.

Sporting KC subbed in Johnny Russell for the final moments of the match. And right away, the Scottish forward linked up with his Hungarian teammate, playing the ball to Krisztian Nemeth, who cut it back to Fernandes and he squeezes it through for the game-winner – securing all three points.

With two straight wins and only four players on a once injury-riddled roster, Sporting KC sets their sights on getting back above the line for playoffs.

During the post-match interviews, Melia explained:

“Baby steps, right? We’re just trying to build into our better performances. Getting guys back – being able to bring [Johnny Russell] off the bench, someone who is as explosive as him. I mean, right now things are moving in the right direction.”

Sitting in ninth place with 25 points in a tight race in the Western Conference standings, the club will host FC Dallas who sits just above the line with a four-point difference on Saturday, July 20.

Featured image: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC drops midweek fixture to LA Galaxy 2-0

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Despite coming off a hot win over the Seattle Sounders this past weekend, Sporting Kansas City fell to the LA Galaxy in a dismal 2-0 loss at Children’s Mercy Park.

The midweek fixture was a chance to regain a rhythm and some points. But as the script goes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal and assist and missed chances for the home side would help lead the Galaxy to victory – the first time they have won at CMP since 2007.

Navigating a stressful three-game week, Peter Vermes was able to fill a bench to capacity for the first time as the injury list continues to shrink. And Jimmy Medranda was removed from the list completely.

A rested center back Andreu Fontas, a former teammate of Zlatan, stepped in for the captain – who started on the bench. Johnny Russell was back after his heroic hat-trick and Fontas returned to the starting XI.

Their only real challenge was missing Krisztian Nemeth again since the league added an extra suspension for the Hungarian on Monday.

So what went wrong?

“I think we missed too many really good chances in the game,” Peter Vermes told the press.

Both sides kicked off the match with sloppy plays, incomplete passes, and misdirection of the ball. Fortunately, the home side soon regained solid possession around the 10th minute.

Tim Melia was called into action in the 24th minute, when the keeper made a diving save after Dave Romney connected powerfully with Sebastian Lletget’s header and smothered the ball amidst a crowded box to keep the game scoreless.

Gutierrez and Rowe nearly combined for the breakthrough just before the half, but David Bingham raced off his line and swiped the ball away for a corner kick that he later defended successfully.

Sporting were then prompted to make a halftime substitution as Besler replaced Botond Barath, who exited with tightness in his leg. No updates on his condition are known yet.

Ten minutes after the restart, Perry Kitchen sent a long pass to Zlatan at the far post, who directed the ball to Favio Alvarez – with the nice finish as he found a pocket of space and tucked away the goal.

Melia came up huge to deny Zlatan in a 1v1 situation in the 69th minute.

Zlatan, who just returned from a two-game suspension, got his revenge from the 1v1 standoff in the 86th minute and scored the game-winner for the visitors late into the second half.

The remainder of the match saw Sporting KC desperately trying to score a goal. Including a chance from the pair of Graham Zusi and Daniel Salloi. But Bingham kept punching them away to preserve the Galaxy’s 2-0 win.

Sporting KC will start a pivotal four-game road streak as they travel to Houston to face the Houston Dynamos on Saturday, June 1.

Featured image: Jimmy Medranda on Instagram @jimao7

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC falls in tough 1-0 loss on the road

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City fell to D.C. United in a steep 1-0 loss on a rainy afternoon at Audi Field on Sunday night.

The injury list continues to grow with Graham Zusi now joining the ranks due to an oblique injury. Although both veterans (Matt Besler and Zusi) were listed as questionable, neither one appeared in the eighteen – giving Ilie Sanchez the opportunity to wear the captain’s band for the first time. The match also marked Seth Sinovic‘s 200th career MLS start. As well, introduced an old friend back to the lineup, Benny Feilhaber.

English captain Wayne Rooney was the first to test Tim Melia in the 14th minute – when he fired a strike from 25 yards out. Fortunately, the 31-year-old keeper made a full-stretch save to punch the ball away from the danger. Melia would go on to make a total of three saves.

Given ten players were out due to injury and only four players, including the goalkeeper, available on the bench, Sporting KC did well to hold the host scoreless into the second half.

Paul Arriola would finally break the goalless drought in the 78th minute when Wayne Rooney passed a perfect ball to Arriola, who then tucked it in the net by mere inches.

The goal gave the visitors an energy boost as they went on to create two solid opportunities in the final twelve minutes. But it wouldn’t be enough. Krisztian Nemeth instantly received a chance to equalize when he jumped on a giveaway and carried the ball toward goal, but his near-post shot goes wide.

A final chance at redemption saw late-half substitute Kelyn Rowe curl in a ball into a crowded box to find Graham Smith, but his header goes wide ending the match in a 1-0 loss.

Sporting KC’s winless skid continues. Now the club will have a three-game stretch at home, so hopefully, they can pick up some points at CMP before heading on the road for four-straight matches. First up, the club will host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, May 18.

Featured image: @sportingkc

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC falls to Atlanta United 3-0

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City fell to Atlanta United 3-0; snapping their home unbeaten run on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park. It was the first time the home team lost to the reigning MLS Cup Champions.

With multiple injuries plaguing the roster – and missing key starters like Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza – Vermes fielded an almost unrecognizable lineup with only five subs available on the bench. Two of which earned their first MLS starts – Graham Smith and Gedion Zelalem (made his club debut). Kelyn Rowe and Botond Barath returned to the starting XI.

Sporting KC kicked off the match with a good opportunity when Graham Zusi unleashed a long-range curler that carried marginally beyond the right-hand post. Shortly thereafter, Atlanta’s Pity Martinez cut centrally onto his left foot and dragged a low shot wide of the near post.

The home side would earn another chance after Krisztian Nemeth could have recorded his 11th off a corner kick by Johnny Russell in the 13th minute, but his glancing header on the edge of the six-yard box missed the mark.

And then it stopped?

With both sides holding close to equal possession and overall passing accuracy, it seemed they locked in a game of keep away, as they passed the ball back-and-forth without creating any solid chances for a full 15 minutes.

*Writer’s note: I’m not suggesting no one was trying to create an opportunity, I just found the situation odd.

Just as it appeared the match would go scoreless into halftime, Josef Martinez opened the scoring for Atlanta in the 39th minute after retrieving the rebound off of Tim Melia at short range. Martinez went down briefly after a collision with the keeper. But he returned to the pitch uninjured to score the game winner in the 76th minute.

Two minutes after the restart, Atlanta doubled the lead. Sporting failed to clear a loose ball at the top of the penalty area and a shot fell invitingly to Ezequiel Barco, who made right-footed strike down the middle into the left side of the post.

Melia did well to deny the 20-year-old nine minutes later, then produced another reflex stop on a strike from Miles Robinson.

Down by two, Sporting KC ran the ball down to try to close the gap and earned two solid opportunities in the process. But as the script goes, Kelyn Rowe’s thunderous effort from the top of the box was blocked and Nemeth’s 22-yard curler skimmed over the woodwork.

In the 65th minute, the energy changed as Ilie entered the match in a double substitution.

Ilie did not appear once in training this past week and he was listed as questionable. So it’s understandable the predicament Vermes was forced into. And one he will probably see himself again:

“The problem is I don’t have the whole team available. It’s not just one guy. When you have a team – and every team has their starters – to then have to supplant all those guys with new players, it’s very hard.”

Regardless, the Spaniard still had a solid attempt shortly after Russell cuts into the middle and forces Guzan into a leaping save with a left-footed curler that bounced off the top corner in the 73rd minute. But the striker couldn’t put his strike within the frame.

Ultimately, it was Martinez’s second goal that gave Sporting KC their first loss of the season at home in a 3-0 deficit.

Even though frustration filled the locker room, the team remains optimistic about the future. Especially with the newcomers earning more playing opportunities:

“I thought the two center backs did a really good job. It’s a quality team with a lot of attacking minded players that are really good at combining and for the most part, till maybe the 70th minute we did a really good job shutting [Atlanta] down.” Melia told the press.

Seth Sinovic added: “I think everyone had their moments. I think everybody got the opportunity to improve, not just the new guys but the experienced guys. And it’s on the experience guys that have not only played a lot of games in the league but a lot of games in a sporting uniform – we have to be better leaders. We got to do a better job and we’re not filling that job right now.”

Next up, Sporting KC will travel to Audi Field to face Wayne Rooney and D.C. United for the first time.

“We have to concentrate on our first day back at training. Making sure we’re doing everything there [..] we build them correctly for the game against [D.C. United],” said Melia. “We just got to get back to being us. And look at one game at a time.”

Featured image: Peaty Romano

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting Kansas City faces a rocky journey as injuries continues to rise

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Slow starts and multiple injuries plague the club. But can Sporting Kansas City bounce back before it’s too late?

Sporting KC is currently in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, under Real Salt Lake – who fell to the LA Galaxy this past weekend. Even though they are undefeated at home, the defense is suffering due to multiple injuries. A list that is still dangerously growing.

The club confirmed on Wednesday morning, Gerso Fernandes underwent surgery for a broken wrist – now joining a long list of injuries:

  • Matt Belser (hamstring strain)
  • Roger Espinoza (PCL sprain)
  • Rodney Wallace (hip)
  • Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus)
  • Jimmy Medranda (knee)
  • Erik Hurtado (knee)

Only Besler is expected to return within the next month. Jimmy Medranda is set to return in June or July after a lengthy absence. This week he returned to training as a “neutral player,” which Manager Peter Vermes called: a step in the right direction.

The injuries are also affecting training as Tuesday’s training session was canceled due to a limited amount of players available – nine players were out. “This is the most guys we’ve ever had out,” Vermes told the press.

Midfielder Ilie Sanchez echoed similar frustrations:

“That’s unlucky for us. We are struggling in that area. […] Because fútbol is a contact sport. You are constantly getting hit [and] in pain. Most of those injured are coming from that contact against the opponent. This will change and we will get better. We will get players recovered, so that will help the team to have better dynamics.”

Although Sporting Kansas City is not the only MLS team to participate in the Concacaf Champions League this year, I was still wary of the effects it could have on the roster in the long run. The team had a great run in the CCL but it clearly came with a cost.

But it’s not over, yet. Even though we would normally see these type of injuries during the mid-season, it’s still early in the season for Sporting KC to turn things around.

Can we get players from the USL side, Swope Park Rangers? Technically, yes.

When asked about the possibility, Vermes explained:

“The problem is, the mechanisms are not in our favor. So we have to drop below fourteen available players before we can actually pull a player from the Swope Park Rangers for a short term loan. So it’s a catch 22, you don’t want to be in that place but then again – maybe you do, because you need the players.”

Though it is important to note that Vermes hope we’re “returning players” to avoid that situation.

The team will most likely have to rely on Daniel Salloi – who has been doing well at training. Along with Johnny Russell, Kristztián Nemeth, Graham Zusi, etc. while their teammates recover. Plus, Gianluca Busio and Tyler Freeman are with the United States U-17s.

Sporting KC is set to host reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United on Sunday, May 5. And looking forward, the players are staying optimistic.

“It’s mental and hopefully that throughout this week, we look back and see the things we have – obviously with the injuries. And the fact that we do need to jell together as a team in different positions. Hopefully, this week we’ll determine that,” Kelyn Rowe stated.

Featured image: Sporting KC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC dominates in 2-0 home opener victory

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City finally kicked off the regular season at home with a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union to an electric crowd at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday.

After dropping the MLS season opener in Los Angeles and the first leg in Panama for the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals, Sporting KC switched gears and returned to Kansas City.

Missing Roger Espinoza due to red card suspension and Andreu Fontás to an injury – a reshuffled lineup introduced 16-year-old, Gianluca Busio, the youngest MLS starter in Children’s Mercy Park history.

Busio wasted little time proving his starting role, drawing a penalty kick in the ninth minute after Johnny Russell and Krisztian Nemeth exchanged passes in the penalty area. In a scramble to win the ball, the Union’s Auston Trusty tripped Busio from behind, and referee Chris Penso immediately called the foul. Ilie Sanchez stepped up and converted the penalty kick to give the home side the early lead.

Moments later, the Union would have a chance to equalize after Seth Sinovic was called for handball infraction inside the box, but as luck would have it – goalkeeper Tim Melia was a game changer as he dove low to push away Marco Fabian’s attempt, securing Sporting KC’s 1-0 lead into the half. Melia earned his eighth penalty kick save since joining the club in 2015, surpassing his former mentor; Nick Rimando’s record of five penalty kick saves.

The Union was reduced to 10 men after Fabian received a straight red card in the 60th minute. Graham Zusi sent a thunderous strike to see it miss the goal by inches and bounce off the post. Minutes later, Melia was called back into action catching the ball mid-air off a header by Cory Burke.

The 16-year-old midfielder earned a chance to score his first MLS goal in the 77th minute; after Ilie sent a pass over the top falling to Busio, who then try to run the ball into an open net but was denied by a last-minute save by Trusty.

Own goals. We love own goals.

In the 80th minute, Kelyn Rowe sent a pass to Gerso Fernandes but Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott intercepted the play; and instead of clearing out the danger, Elliott kicked the ball past Blake doubling Sporting’s lead 2-0. Even though it technically wasn’t counted as an assist for Rowe, we’ll make an exception.

The last ten minutes saw both sides exchange passes until the final whistle awarding Sporting KC a 2-0 shutout and three points.

Sporting KC will prepare to host Panamanian side Independent in the decisive second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals; before going back on the road to face the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, March 17.

Featured image: Peaty Romano

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC’s Historical Start to 2019: Champions League Review

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

Sporting Kansas City opened up the 2019 season with a historic 3-0 victory on Liga MX’s Deportivo Toluca FC last Thursday night in the first leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.

Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez delivered all three winning goals – making Sporting KC the second MLS team to defeat a Mexican club by three goals in CCL history.

Sporting KC has spent the last few days training in Albuquerque, New Mexico to get acclimated to the altitude before traveling to Toluca, Mexico for the decisive second leg on Thursday, February 28. Kickoff is slated for 9 p.m. CT at Estadio Nemesio Diez.

Admittedly, I was a little hesitant with the idea of Sporting KC advancing in the tournament considering the 2019 MLS season begins next weekend. But after seeing what Sporting KC accomplished Thursday night – I feel this team can handle a busy schedule balancing the CCL while trying to stay atop the Western Conference.

On a chilly evening in Children’s Mercy Park, it seemed Toluca would take the early lead. In the fourth minute, Luis Mendoza barreled down the left flank and cut centrally on the edge of the box, only to see his curler go beyond the left-hand post.

The home side would continue to dominate the game from then on, deflating Toluca’s defense with every chance they got. Vermes’ men finally drew first blood in the 35th minute when Nemeth fired a low shot past Alfredo Talavera – ringing in the first goal of 2019 with remarkable fashion.

Nemeth would get a second chance to double the score just three minutes after the restart but he would see his chance go over the bar. Toluca then came close to leveling the match in the 50th minute – with Emmanuel Gigliotti’s close-range side volley flying over the net.

Gerso doubled the score just two minutes after sending a rocket straight into the corner.

Seth Sinovic was phenomenal in defense and ran consistent plays leaving Toluca’s defenders in the dust. Even though, Sinovic would eventually run out of steam; in the 72nd minute, Ilie sealed the deal with a jaw-dropping volley from 20 yards out.

Sporting KC sought out a fourth goal for the duration of the match while managing to keep Toluca out of the danger zone. With the help of newcomers Kelyn Rowe and Erik Hurtado – who made their official club debuts late in the half – the home side secured the 3-0 advantage for the second leg this week.

All Sporting KC needs to do is score a fourth goal or hold Toluca to a scoreless draw. Should Toluca win 3-0 to level the aggregate at 3-3, the match will go straight to penalties and 30 minutes of extra time will not be played.

With roster changes in hand, the only thing Sporting KC would have to worry about is Toluca’s new manager. Earlier this week, Toluca club legend Hernan Cristante was replaced by interim boss Jose Luis Real. Toluca is currently on a seven-game winless streak.

“I think it’s going to be great. We’re still in that preseason mode because this was our first game. We obviously did everything we could for the first game. And obviously, it worked out for us. We played very well but now it’s on to the next one. I think there’s a few things we can tidy up. And we’re going to train in New Mexico, train at altitude and make sure we’re ready for this game in Toluca,” Rowe said.

Featured image: Araceli Villanueva

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

Sporting KC claims victory over Houston Dynamo in Preseason Finale

Official Sporting KC Reporter

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