Sporting KC opens with 2-1 comeback win

Gadi Kinda and Daniel Salloi scored in back-to-back minutes near the hour mark as Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0, 3 points) secured a 2-1 comeback victory over the New York Red Bulls (0-1-0, 0 points) in a Week 1 battle on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.

After New York took a 1-0 lead three minutes into the second half through 17-year-old Caden Clark, Gadi Kinda converted a 59th-minute penalty kick and Salloi slotted home in the 60th minute to give Sporting its MLS-record 15th season-opening win and kick off the 2021 campaign on a high note.

With a triumph under their belts, Sporting will now return to Children’s Mercy Park for the club’s home opener on Friday against Orlando City SC at 6:30 p.m. The sold-out encounter will be shown nationally on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app.

Entering his 13th season at the helm, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes assembled a matchday squad that featured nine homegrown players, an all-time record for the club.

With Tim Melia out injured, 19-year-old John Pulskamp became the youngest Sporting goalkeeper to play in an MLS match and the youngest MLS goalkeeper to win a game since 2010. Pulskamp was one of three Sporting debutants in the starting lineup, joining a pair of Frenchmen in center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and holding midfielder Remi Walter.

Both sides were kept at bay in a cagey first 45 minutes that produced zero combined shots on goal — the eighth such occurrence in Sporting history.

Kinda and 18-year-old Gianluca Busio — who was deployed as a center forward on Saturday — combined neatly on the edge of the box in the 12th minute only to see Red Bulls defender Andrew Gutman scramble clear.

Over 20 minutes later, New York’s Cristian Casseres Jr. galloped into the attacking third and unleashed a long-range effort that deflected marginally wide of Pulskamp’s right-hand post.

The inter-conference clash sprang to life after intermission, with the Red Bulls wasting little time landing the first punch. Kyle Duncan found a pocket of space to cross near the right corner flag, and although Isimat-Mirin won his defensive header at the far post, Clark was stationed near the penalty spot to smash an impressive volley past Pulskamp and into the top right corner to give New York a 1-0 advantage.

Sporting responded admirably to the setback as Walter did well to open himself up for a 20-yard shot that fizzed high and wide before Busio settled Kinda’s impudent pass into the box and forced Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel into his lone save of the evening.

The visitors restored parity shortly thereafter when Jaylin Lindsey’s attempted cross was blocked by Gutman’s outstretched arm inside the penalty area. Referee Robert Sibiga did not hesitate in pointing to the spot, and Kinda made no mistake by burying his spot kick straight down the middle for Sporting’s first goal of the 2021 campaign.

With momentum on their side, Sporting grabbed a match-winner just 62 seconds later on a breathtaking attack down the right flank.

Lindsey surged into the attacking half and spread the ball wide to Khiry Shelton, who whipped an inch-perfect cross past two New York defenders to Salloi, who was rewarded for his far-post run with a calm finish into the gaping net. The 24-year-old Salloi bagged his first goal since September 2019 on the play as Sporting scored in back-to-back minutes of a regular season fixture for only the sixth time ever and the first since 2007.

Having turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal cushion, Sporting clamped down on the Red Bulls for the remainder of the match as the 2-1 score was preserved until Sibiga’s full-time whistle.

Captain Johnny Russell and striker Alan Pulido, two of the club’s leading scorers from last season, notably came off the bench in the 77th minute to help Vermes’ side close out a hard-earned three points in the team’s first regular season game in over five months.

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Sporting KC opens season Saturday with Red Bulls

A pair of MLS charter members will raise the curtains on a highly anticipated 2021 season Saturday night when Sporting Kansas City visits the New York Red Bulls for a 7 p.m. showdown at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Saturday’s inter-conference clash will be shown live on Bally Sports Kansas City and Bally Sports Midwest in Mid-Missouri and Iowa with three hours of live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Fans within the Bally Sports Midwest footprint can also stream the action live on FOX Sports GO, while supporters elsewhere across the U.S. can watch on ESPN Plus. Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM will air local radio broadcasts and the official Sporting KC app will provide additional in-game updates.

In conjunction with Saturday’s opener, Sporting fans are invited to attend an outdoor watch party at Children’s Mercy Park when the club hosts its season kickoff. Supporters can secure their free ticket to the season kickoff at SeatGeek.com or the SeatGeek app, with stadium gates opening at 5:30 p.m. The watch party will use distanced outdoor seating in the stadium bowl with the match shown on the north and south videoboards. Face coverings will be mandatory for all in attendance.

The season kickoff will also serve as the first opportunity for season ticket members to pick up their STM gift packages, which include a copy of the commemorative hardback book “One Club: The First 25 Years of Major League Soccer in Kansas City.”

Led by 13th-year manager Peter Vermes, the longest-tenured head coach in MLS history, Sporting finished atop the Western Conference last season with a 12-6-3 record and a club-record 1.86 points per game.

Newly designated captain Johnny Russell, striker Alan Pulido and midfielder Gadi Kinda bagged six goals apiece in the regular season, while 18-year-old Gianluca Busio, fellow Academy product Jaylin Lindsey and winger Khiry Shelton enjoyed their best MLS campaigns to date.

Sporting returns a veteran core this year — including heralded goalkeeper Tim Melia and defender Graham Zusi, who in his 13th season has become the longest-tenured active player with a single club in MLS.

Vermes has added a crop of high-profile newcomers, including center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and midfielder Remi Walter from France, while also promoting from within. Sporting has an MLS-high 12 Homegrown Players on its current roster, five of whom have signed within the last six months.

Vermes will utilize his squad’s depth in Week 1, as five Sporting players will miss Saturday’s contest through injury: Zusi, defender Amadou Dia and goalkeepers Melia, Kendall McIntosh and Brooks Thompson.

Pulido, Russell and Walter will be available for selection after working back from their own preseason injuries. In Melia’s absence, 19-year-old John Pulskamp is slated to make his MLS debut and become the youngest goalkeeper to feature for Sporting in an MLS match.

On the opposite sideline, the Red Bulls have won three Supporters’ Shield titles over the last eight seasons and own an 11-year playoff streak, the second-longest active run in MLS. New York endured an up-and-down campaign in 2020, parting ways with head coach Chris Armas in September before appointing Austrian manager Gerhard Struber and placing sixth in the East with a 9-9-5 record. Struber and New York fell to eventual MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew SC in the first round of the 2020 postseason.

Known for their signature high-pressing style of play — the Red Bulls have led MLS in duels won for six straight seasons — New York enters the weekend with a clean bill of health. The club’s roster is highlighted by U.S. international center back Aaron Long, dynamic outside back Kyle Duncan, Austrian winger Daniel Royer and newly acquired No. 9 Fabio, a talented 23-year-old on loan from Brazilian side Oeste.

Both teams will be encouraged by past history in season-opening encounters. Sporting’s 14 season-opening wins and nine victories in road openers are the most in MLS history. Conversely, the Red Bulls boast a league-high 16 home-opening wins, including a 16-4-5 record in their first home matches of the season.

The series between Sporting and New York dates back to the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign and has seen the clubs take 21 wins and 13 draws apiece in regular season play. The most recent meeting took place in April 2019 when Russell and Busio tallied goals in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Children’s Mercy Park. Russell has scored in both career appearances against New York, including a 3-2 setback in July 2018 when Sporting last visited Red Bull Arena.

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Sporting KC to play 34 matches in 2021 season

Sporting Kansas City has released the club’s 34-match schedule for the 2021 MLS regular season, which will kick off with a visit to the New York Red Bulls on April 17 and conclude with a Decision Day home game against rivals Real Salt Lake on Nov. 7 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sporting Kansas City season ticket members will have access to an exclusive pre-sale from March 26 to March 30 for tickets to the club’s first four regular season home matches and will receive more information from their membership service executives. Tickets to Sporting’s first four home matches will then go on sale to the public via SeatGeek.com on Wednesday, March 31.

The latest regular season start date in team history will see Sporting open the campaign at Red Bull Arena on April 17.

Six days later, Sporting will play host to Orlando City SC in the club’s Children’s Mercy Park home opener at 6:30 p.m., to be shown on FS1 and FOX Deportes. The Friday night showdown is one of seven nationally televised games on Sporting’s regular season docket — three on FS1 and FOX Deportes, three on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and one on UniMas.

Bally Sports Kansas City will serve as the local television home of Sporting in 2021 with play-by-play announcer Nate Bukaty, color commentator Jacob Peterson and sideline reporter Carter Augustine on the call. Broadcast details for all regional telecasts will be announced soon.

In conjunction with the schedule release, Sporting Kansas City has also announced that Children’s Mercy Park will begin the season with a reduced capacity of approximately 6,500 fans. Sporting will continue to implement comprehensive health and safety protocols at all home matches, including a limited-capacity seating plan and mandatory face coverings for supporters.

“We are excited to welcome supporters back to Children’s Mercy Park this year,” Sporting KC President and CEO Jake Reid said. “With assistance and guidance from local officials, we were permitted to host matches at a larger capacity to begin the season but will start with a more limited number of approximately 6,500 fans. The safety and well-being of supporters remains our top priority. To that end, we will utilize the detailed safety protocols in place at the stadium and continue to adapt in accordance with the changing landscape.”

Major League Soccer’s 26th season will feature 27 clubs, with Sporting among the nine active charter members from the inaugural 1996 campaign. Each team will play 34 matches — 17 at home and 17 away — over the course of 32 weeks.

Sporting will face its 12 fellow Western Conference opponents two or three times each for a total of 31 matches. The remaining three games will come against Eastern Conference foes — New York and Orlando in the first two weeks of the season and Chicago Fire FC on Sept. 11.

2021 home opponents: Austin FC (2), Colorado Rapids (2), Houston Dynamo FC (2), Chicago Fire FC, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, LAFC, Minnesota United FC, Orlando City SC, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

2021 away opponents: FC Dallas (2), LAFC (2), Minnesota United FC (2), Seattle Sounders FC (2), Austin FC, Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

At the end of the regular season, the top seven teams from each conference will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, set to begin on Nov. 19. MLS Cup will be played on Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. and air live on ABC and UniMas. More information about postseason schedule will be announced at a later date.

The month of May is highlighted by two meetings with rivals Houston Dynamo FC and an inaugural battle against MLS expansion club Austin FC on May 9 in an FS1 match. The teams will meet once more at Children’s Mercy Park on July 17 before Sporting makes its first trip to Austin on Nov. 3.

Led by 13th-year manager Peter Vermes, the longest tenured head coach in MLS history, Sporting will observe a three-week international break during the first half of June before taking the field in Portland on June 19.

One week later, Children’s Mercy Park will play host to its lone ESPN broadcast as Western Conference heavyweights LAFC visit Kansas City. Sporting’s two other ESPN appearances will come against regional rivals Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field — first on Aug. 21 as part of MLS Rivalry Week and later on Oct. 31 in the penultimate weekend of the regular season.

After traveling to face LA Galaxy on the Fourth of July, Sporting will have another bye weekend in conjunction with the start of the Concacaf Gold Cup.

A marquee matchup at two-time defending Western Conference champion Seattle Sounders FC on July 25 is bookended by two milestone home fixtures — Sporting’s 800th regular season match versus San Jose on July 21 and the club’s 400th regular season home game against FC Dallas on July 31.

The meeting with San Jose marks the start of a stretch that sees Sporting play 10 consecutive games against teams that reached the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs — including two trips to LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium on Aug. 4 and Sept. 3.

Sporting will enjoy a three-game homestand from Sept. 11-26, welcoming Chicago and Minnesota before playing host to an FS1 national audience for the third time versus Seattle. Five of the club’s next seven fixtures are on the road, including back-to-back visits west to Vancouver and Seattle on Oct. 17 and 23.

After playing host to the Galaxy on Oct. 27 and venturing to Minnesota and Austin on Oct. 31 and Nov. 3, Sporting will hold its regular season finale for the first time since 2018 when Real Salt Lake comes to Children’s Mercy Park on Nov. 7 for one of six Western Conference matches that will kick off simultaneously on Decision Day. This marks the second straight year that Sporting will close out the regular season against RSL after Vermes’ side claimed a 2-0 road win last November to clinch first place in the West.

Sporting’s regular season home slate will feature the return of several promotions and theme nights, including Retro Night, Sporting Salutes, Sporting Legends, Kick Childhood Cancer Night and more.

In addition to navigating a 34-game regular season that includes 22 matches over the final 17 weeks, Sporting will also compete in Leagues Cup, a premier international competition featuring four MLS clubs and four teams from LIGA MX. The high-profile, single-elimination tournament will see Sporting play host to a LIGA MX opponent in the quarterfinals on the week of Aug. 9, with the semifinals slated for the week of Sept. 13 and the final on the week of Sept. 20.

The 2021 season will also mark the return of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, after the revered competition was canceled in 2020. Only eight of the 24 American MLS clubs will compete in this year’s tournament, which is scheduled to conclude by June 30. The mechanisms used to determine the participating MLS clubs for the 2021 Open Cup will be announced later.

Led by captain Johnny Russell, Mexican international striker Alan Pulido, former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia and MLS All-Stars Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez and Graham Zusi, Sporting will look to build upon a successful 2020 campaign that saw the team finish first in the Western Conference for the second time in three years.

Vermes’ side has won four major championships over the last decade — hoisting the 2013 MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017 — in addition to making nine playoff appearances since 2011.

Sporting KC 2021 MLS regular season schedule


Home matches in capital letters; all details subject to change.
Date – Opponent – Time CT (TV) – Theme Night
Saturday, April 17 at New York Red Bulls 7:00
Friday, April 23 ORLANDO CITY SC 6:30 (FS1)
Saturday, May 1 at Real Salt Lake 1:00
Sunday, May 9 AUSTIN FC 6:30 (FS1)
Wednesday, May 12 at Houston Dynamo 7:30
Sunday, May 16 VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC 1:00 Soccer For All
Saturday, May 22 at San Jose Earthquakes 9:00
Saturday, May 29 HOUSTON DYNAMO FC 7:30 Sporting Sustainability
Saturday, June 19 at Portland Timbers 9:30
Wednesday, June 23 COLORADO RAPIDS 7:30
Saturday, June 26 LAFC 4:00 (ESPN)
Sunday, July 4 at LA Galaxy 9:30
Saturday, July 17 AUSTIN FC 7:30
Wednesday, July 21 SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES 7:30
Sunday, July 25 at Seattle Sounders FC 8:00
Saturday, July 31 FC DALLAS 7:30 Sporting Salutes
Wednesday, Aug. 4 at LAFC 9:30
Saturday, Aug. 7 at Colorado Rapids 8:00
Saturday, Aug. 14 at FC Dallas 7:30
Wednesday, Aug. 18 PORTLAND TIMBERS 7:30
Saturday, Aug. 21 at Minnesota United FC 2:30 (ESPN)
Saturday, Aug. 28 COLORADO RAPIDS 7:30 Retro Night
Friday, Sept. 3 at LAFC 9:00 (UniMas)
Saturday, Sept. 11 CHICAGO FIRE FC 7:30
Wednesday, Sept. 15 MINNESOTA UNITED FC 7:30
Sunday, Sept. 26 SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 5:00 (FS1) Kick Childhood Cancer
Wednesday, Sept. 29 at FC Dallas 7:00
Sunday, Oct. 3 HOUSTON DYNAMO TBD
Sunday, Oct. 17 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 9:00
Saturday, Oct. 23 at Seattle Sounders FC 8:00
Wednesday, Oct. 27 LA GALAXY 7:30 Fan Appreciation
Sunday, Oct. 31 at Minnesota United FC TBD (ESPN)
Wednesday, Nov. 3 at Austin FC 8:00
Sunday, Nov. 7 REAL SALT LAKE 5:00

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