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Sporting Kansas City fire off three on the ‘Caps



Thad Bell Photography

Yes, points matter at any point in a season, especially for Sporting Kansas City in 2023. With that in mind, Sporting got a July 4th pre-weekend off to an explosive start Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park. A spectacular team goal began the onslaught and two opportunistic goals – all three coming from the left flank – finished off the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps who began the night in an envious position.

With four matches left in front of an MLS league-wide month-plus break for the Leagues Cup, Sporting Kansas City began the night four points off the 9th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. That spot was taken by Saturday night’s guests, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Sporting (5-10-6) has gained their 21 points in 21 games, the most played by any team – in some cases three more – in the West.

Whitecaps’ coach, Vann Sartini (3-0-1 v Sporting KC in the regular season) was shorted on this matchday due to three on international duty at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup and another three on the injury report.

The most recent clash between the two meant a draw as Vancouver scored a late equalizer at BC Place on June 23rd. However, Sporting held a dominant 6-2-2 record over the Whitecaps at home all-time. But two losses in their last two home tilts have stunted momentum, while Vancouver (6-5-7) has drawn current Supporter’s Shield frontrunners FC Cincinnati and defeated defending MLS Champs Los Angeles FC 3-2 in their last two road shows.

Sporting manager Peter Vermes put out the following eleven to get back to home cooking:

An early series of corners earned by the ‘Caps’ enterprising and decisive interplay made for tense moments after some harmless Sporting rushes into the visitor’s end. Yet, Kansas City escaped.

However, in the 9th minute, Sporting goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh took a blow to the head as Vancouver’s Sergo Cardova decided not to pull up and went right through with his lead foot as a sliding McIntosh had the ball in his grasp. McIntosh was able to carry on after receiving appropriate medical attention.

Fresh off his MLS Player of the Month accolade, Kansas City striker Alan Pulido was active finding space in the first 20 minutes, as midfielder Gadi Kinda and wingers Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi took turns trying to stretch the Whitecaps up top. The ‘Caps high line kept the field small, however, when Sporting was in possession.

The 23rd minute saw Kinda corkscrew his defender into the turf in Vancouver’s box before serving near the penalty spot. Right center back Dany Rosero felt a chance for the spectacular, rising to flick the ball up with his chest before volleying the ball over the Whitecaps’ bar.

The spectacular would come in the 33rd minute. Off a nifty touch by left back Tim Leibold, Kinda surged up the inner left channel, cutting to the middle for a broader view. The Israel native bent a sublime ball on the floor with the outside of his right boot for a central running Remi Walter. Walter took an aggressive touch to go clear of the backs and finished into the upper left corner of Yohei Takaoka’s net for the 1-0 lead.

Kansas City continued to threaten the rest of the half, including injury time. Two minutes into the six added minutes, Walter switched to Leibold on the left wing.  A first-time low cross from the German scooted by Salloi, but Pulido was at the back post to drive the ball on goal for an inspiring two-goal lead heading into the break.

Vermes replaced Radoja with Erik Thommy to begin the second half. The attacking sub meant Walter moved into the #6 slot.

An early goal for Vancouver would see them get back into the match. A free kick on the right wing some 32 yards out provided an in. The incoming serve saw a scrum in Sporting’s box and a shot that bounded off McIntosh’s foot before the ball was cleared from danger.

Vancouver would not fair so fortunately. A penetrating run down the inner left channel of the Whitecaps’ box saw Salloi receive from Leibold. A harmless dink by Salloi into the ‘Caps’ six-yard box caused inordinate confusion as Takaoka, instead of letting it roll for his present defender for an easy clear, sprawled for the trickler and put the ball in prime position for Thommy or Russell to slot home. Thommy did the honors, and Sporting was up three.


Salloi and Kinda left the match in the 79th minute as Marino Tzionis and Roger Espinoza came on to see the match out and maybe put a fourth into Vancouver’s heart.

Further subs came in the forms of Logan Ndenbe and Stephen Afrifa in the 87th minute for Leibold and Pulido.

But like a sharpshooter or a refined pyrotechnician (take your pick), Sporting Kansas City had lit up the Whitecaps and once again put themselves in striking distance of a playoff spot.

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