Daniel Salloi bagged a sensational first-half brace and Felipe Hernandez opened his MLS scoring account as Sporting Kansas City (6-3-2, 20 points) soundly defeated the Colorado Rapids (5-3-1, 16 points) by a 3-1 scoreline on Wednesday to solidify second place in the Western Conference.
In a match that Sporting controlled from wire to wire, Salloi ignited a raucous Children’s Mercy Park crowd with two goals in the first 45 minutes before Hernandez put the result out of reach near the hour mark. Colorado defender Keegan Rosenberry salvaged a late consolation goal for the visitors, who were unable to prevent Sporting’s regular season home scoring streak from swelling to a club-record 21 matches.
Wednesday’s convincing performance featured strong Homegrown representation: all three Sporting goals came from Homegrown Players and the club fielded six Sporting KC Academy products for the first time ever in a competitive match. Leading the way was Salloi, whose nine combined goals (six) and assists (three) this season are the second-most in MLS.
Presiding over his 400th MLS match as Sporting’s coach, Manager Peter Vermes deployed a lineup that featured one change from Saturday’s 2-1 loss at the Portland Timbers as center forward Khiry Shelton replaced Alan Pulido. Shelton was nearly the first player to etch his name on the scoresheet after seven minutes, swiftly beating defender Danny Wilson before busy Colorado goalkeeper William Yarbrough raced off his line to smother the danger and keep the game scoreless.
The hosts continued to exert their dominance and could have landed the first punch in the 13th minute, but captain Johnny Russell’s long-range curler narrowly missed the mark.
Fellow Sporting KC Academy product Jaylin Lindsey was involved in Sporting’s wonderfully worked go-ahead goal in the 14th minute. The right back slipped a pass down the flank for Russell, whose cutback pass rolled invitingly to Salloi near the penalty spot. The 24-year-old Hungarian made no mistake by firing low past Yarbrough and giving his team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Russell is now tied for the team lead with three assists on the season, while Lindsey has scored or assisted in each of his last three starts.
Lindsey remained a highly involved fixture in attack and almost tallied his second assist of the night on 32 minutes. His teasing cross from the right wing met a leaping Russell, who couldn’t quite steer his acrobatic header on frame.
Making his 200th career start and appearance for Sporting in all competitions, goalkeeper Tim Melia wasn’t overly occupied on Wednesday but did well to cast aside Sam Vines’ curling effort in the 36th minute. The stop was Melia’s best of two saves on the night.
Salloi’s sizzling form yielded another goal in the 38th minute. Center back Andreu Fontas advanced into the attacking half of the field and squeezed a pass to Hernandez, who played a neat layoff to Salloi inside the box. The winger took one touch centrally and hammered a low drive inside the near post for his team-leading sixth goal of the season. Salloi now ranks third on the MLS goal scoring charts, one behind Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Raul Ruidiaz. Hernandez and Fontas both recorded their first assists of the year on the play, with Fontas claiming the very first of his MLS career.
High on confidence, Salloi went close to securing his hat trick on both sides of halftime. In the 41st minute, a stunning kick save from Yarbrough left the buzzing forward and onlooking supporters in disbelief. Thirteen minutes into the second half, Salloi dashed behind the Colorado defense and dragged a shot wide from the left side of the box.
Sporting weren’t content to sit on their two-goal cushion and delivered the haymaker in the 64th minute. Hernandez was afforded space to drive into the attacking third, picked out Salloi on the left channel and received a nicely weighted return pass before sending an excellent shot inside the far post for his first MLS goal. Vermes’ men lead the league with 20 goals this season, 11 of which have come from Sporting KC Academy products.
Pulido entered as a second-half substitute and went close to making the score 4-0 in the 71st minute, running onto a Shelton through ball and rounding Yarbrough before shooting wide into the side netting from a tight angle. The Mexican international threatened once again in stoppage time, collecting an incisive Salloi pass, but the Colorado keeper produced another impressive stop.
The Rapids managed an inconsequential goal of their own with six minutes remaining. Lalas Abubakar’s booming header off a corner kick was saved by Melia, but Rosenberry was on hand to poke home the rebound at point-blank range and deny Sporting’s bid for a clean sheet.
With a well-deserved victory in the rearview mirrior, Sporting will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday when star-studded LAFC visits Children’s Mercy Park for a mouthwatering encounter that will air live nationally on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. CT. A limited number of tickets for the contest, including standing-room only tickets, are available at SeatGeek.com.