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Sporting KC earns gritty 1-1 draw with LAFC

Johnny Russell scored in an action packed draw to make it three games unbeaten.



Credit: Thad Bell

It’s officially a streak. Sporting Kansas City picked up a point in Los Angeles against LAFC with a 1-1 draw, their third straight MLS match without a loss.

A modest achievement, sure. But we’re celebrating baby steps after a truly horrendous start to the season.

LAFC is not at the top of the table right now, but many in MLS have already anointed them repeat champions. It was a tall order for Sporting KC who were riding high on confidence after two straight wins, but was without keeper Tim Melia. 29-year-old Kendall McIntosh filled in with just his third ever MLS start. The goal was a true howler that went right through him, but McIntosh settled into the match and came up with several nice plays to secure the result.

The visitors came out with a lot of early pressure. It was a rollercoaster of a first half with back and forth action. LAFC is so incredibly quick and dangerous on the counter, which could and should have resulted in more than one goal. But they were able to open the scoring in the 13th minute.

21-year-old Kwadwo Opoku was causing problems all night for the SKC defense. He put Andreu Fontas on skates before cutting it back for a wide open Dénis Bouanga. He fired a bullet from the top of the box which somehow snuck directly under McIntosh for the 1-0 lead.

LA continued the attack and forced McIntosh into a big save only a few seconds after the restart. Bouanga, the MLS Golden Boot leader, also missed a chance to score his 11th goal in as many games with a huge opportunity in the 18th minute.

Sporting KC responded just two minutes later with a brilliant individual goal from Johnny Russell. He got the ball outside the box and danced his way through traffic in classic JFR style. He found a sliver of an opening and punched it through. Amazingly, LA keeper Eldin Jakupovic also let the ball go straight through him.

The Captain doing Captain things.

Remi nearly put the visitors ahead in the 32nd minute with a shot just wide of the post as the intense action continued in the first half.

While the second half calmed down a bit, it started off with a bang. There was a scary moment for SKC in the opening seconds after an awkward deflection from Radoja. McIntosh was called into action and made a miraculous save to push it over the post.

Seeing some weak spots, Peter Vermes made two subs in the 61st minutes. Jake Davis was getting picked on all night, so the experience of Graham Zusi was called upon to sure things up. Gadi Kinda also replaced Erik Thommy in the midfield.

It was starting to feel like a goal from LAFC was simply inevitable. SKC was fighting off big chances left and right. In the 84th minute, LA thought they had scored the winner but VAR called back a goal from Ryan Hollingshead.

Sporting displayed some true grit to lock down the match, even coming within inches of a winner themselves in the dying minutes. However, they’ll be more than happy with a point on the road against the best team in the league.

It won’t get much easier this weekend as SKC will be walking into a buzzsaw environment in St. Louis against the ALLCAPS. The rivalry’s first ever clash kicks off at 8:30pm.

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