Sporting KC ties for first place after 2-2 draw with Chicago

Sporting Kansas City (9-6-3, 30 points) moved into a tie for first place in the Western Conference following a tense 2-2 draw with Chicago Fire FC (5-8-5, 20 points) on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago.

After Erik Hurtado’s 35th-minute opener was canceled out by a Robert Beric strike on the brink of halftime, Sporting took its second lead of the day thanks to a Gadi Kinda header in the 83rd minute.

However, manager Peter Vermes’ men were denied the full three points as Chicago substitute Djordje Mihailovic equalized on one of the final kicks of the match.

The result leaves Sporting on 30 points, level with Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers at the summit of the West. Chicago, meanwhile, has taken hold of the 10th and final playoff position in the East and snapped a four-game losing streak against Sporting that dated back to 2017.

Tasked with playing a fifth match in 15 days, Sporting Kansas City fielded a lineup that featured five changes from Wednesday’s controversial 1-0 loss at FC Dallas.

Center back Winston Reid reprised his role in place of Andreu Fontas, a new-look midfield featured three fresh faces in Kinda, Ilie Sanchez and 19-year-old Cam Duke, and forward Johnny Russell returned to the starting XI as part of a three-man attack alongside Hurtado and 18-year-old Gianluca Busio, who was notably deployed as a winger for the first time this season.

Hurtado made headlines for his Goal of the Week winner in last Sunday’s defeat of Nashville SC and almost bagged another wonderstrike in the 11th minute when he galloped onto Melia’s booming long ball over the top and fired a volley wide of the near post from a tight angle on the right flank.

A fleeting chance fell to Chicago four minutes later as Spanish playmaker Alvaro Medran whipped a free kick into the penalty area, and although a shot fell invitingly to former Sporting forward C.J. Sapong near the penalty spot, Ilie and Reid were both there to block the effort and extinguish the danger.

Sapong was stymied once more from point-blank range in the 19th minute when Melia produced a phenomenal reflex stop on the heels of a well-orchestrated set piece by Chicago.

The game’s first goal belonged to Sporting in the 35th minute. Kinda did brilliantly to steal possession in midfield, peel away from a defender and charge forward before rolling a ball into the path of Hurtado, who withstood a stiff arm from Chicago’s Wyatt Omsberg and poked a crisp finish past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

Kinda tabbed his third assist on the play, while Hurtado provisionally became the only MLS player to notch four goals in less than 300 regular season minutes this year.

In first-half stoppage time, VAR Hilario Grajeda aided the Fire in their bid for a leveler. Medran’s looping corner was headed high into the air by Duke, kept alive by Omsberg and fired goalward by Beric on the left side of the box.

The piledriver beat the outstretched Melia, and although Amadou Dia thought he had conjured a heroic goal line clearance, video review prompted official David Gantar to award the equalizer.

After neither side carved out an opening through the first 20 minutes of the second stanza, another point of controversy arose when Duke won a challenge inside the box and was whacked by Medran. Much to Sporting’s dismay, the official waved play to resume and video review did not take place.

Sporting retained attacking initiative despite the denial of its penalty protests, and substitute Roger Espinoza gave Chicago a scare in the 78th minute when his long-range missile screamed a few feet off target. Sapong then tried his luck at the opposite end, his low-driven attempt dragging wide of Melia’s right-hand post.

The 83rd minute delivered Sporting’s second go-ahead goal of the afternoon. Russell’s near-post corner kick was glanced across the face of goal by the head of Ilie, allowing Kinda to nod home on the doorstep for his fifth tally of the campaign.

The play marked the seventh time Sporting has scored from a corner kick this season, tied for the most in MLS. Additionally, Kinda is one of four MLS newcomers — including Sporting striker Alan Pulido — with five goals and three assists in 2020.

Faced with its second deficit of the day, Chicago took swing in the 84th minute as substitute Elliot Collier settled a cross at the far post, cut onto his right boot and curled inches over the crossbar.

Busio then went close to sealing all three points, but his 30-yard sledgehammer skipped marginally wide in the 86th minute.

The Fire stole an unlikely equalizer deep into added time. With 95 minutes on the clock, Mihailovic raced onto a floated ball in behind the Sporting defense, rounded Melia, took another touch and slotted into the gaping net to ensure a splitting of the points.

With a grueling run of matches in the rearview mirror, Sporting will have a full week to prepare for its next fixture against the Colorado Rapids (5-4-4, 19 points).

Next Saturday’s clash at Children’s Mercy Park is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with tickets available at SeatGeek.com and live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports GO.

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Late goal thrown out as Dallas defeats Sporting, 1-0

Sporting Kansas City saw its three-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday night following a controversial 1-0 defeat to FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Sporting (9-6-2, 29 pts.) fell behind late in the first half after Ryan Hollingshead put FC Dallas (6-4-6, 24 pts.) ahead, but Sporting was denied a late equalizer when referee Armando Villarreal, and his video assistant referee, Malik Badawi, decided to chalk off Johnny Russell’s goal for what they deemed a foul by Gadi Kinda.

Sporting rotated the starting lineup with five changes from Sunday’s victory over Nashville SC, as defender Andreu Fontas and forward Daniel Salloi each made their first regular-season starts of 2020, while Felipe Hernandez, Roger Espinoza and Erik Hurtado were also restored to the lineup.

The two sides traded decent chances early on, as Sporting right back Jaylin Lindsey blazed over the bar before Dallas’ Ryan Hollingshead nodded a corner over the bar within the opening 10 minutes.

Much-changed Sporting continued to soak up pressure as the half wore on, with Melia called into four saves – including a pair of impressive interventions to deny Franco Jara who had scored three goals in his previous two matches against Sporting KC.

Dallas eventually took the lead in the 43rd minute, and it took a major stroke of luck to beat Melia on the night. Bryan Reynolds floated cross from the right wing found Hollingshead crashing in at the far post, and his low finish rattled off the post before hitting Melia on the back and nestling into the corner of the net, giving Dallas a 1-0 lead at the break.

Peter Vermes introduced regular trio Ilie Sanchez, Gadi Kinda and Johnny Russell at halftime but it was Dallas that produced the first big chance of the second half. With the ball pinballing around the edge of the area, it eventually fell to Michael Barrios whose first-time shot from close range flashed wide of the post.

In the 57th minute, Jara spurned a golden opportunity to double the hosts’ lead, firing wide with only Melia to beat after being slipped through on goal by Barrios. Two minutes later, Melia was forced into action once again, diving to his left to claw away Fafa Picault’s effort from the edge of the area.

Sporting forced Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer into his first save of the game in the 62nd minute. Russell pounced on a poor Dallas pass in the midfield before finding Kinda on the left wing, but the Israeli’s powerful attempt was held by Maurer.

Hurtado, who scored a goal of the season candidate on Sunday, almost brought Sporting level in the 82nd minute when he fought off a center back to set up an open look at goal, but he blazed his volley over the bar.

Sporting had the ball in the net and thought they’d equalized in the 87th minute when Russell slammed home a loose ball after Maurer had spilled Luis Martins’ shot.

However, referee Armando Villarreal decided that Kinda had fouled Maurer while challenging for the ball and chalked the goal off. When the final whistle blew, it also snapped Sporting’s run of scoring in all 16 regular-season games in 2020.

Sporting KC remains on the road this weekend as the side travels north to take on Eastern Conference foe the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, and will air nationally on Univision and TUDN, as well as locally on FOX Sports Kansas City and Sports Radio 810 WHB.

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Sporting KC travels to Texas tonight

Winners of three straight matches and a point out of first place in the Western Conference, Sporting Kansas City (9-5-2, 29 points) will ride a wave of momentum in Wednesday’s showdown with fellow MLS originals FC Dallas (5-4-6, 21 points) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Nashville SC at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, gave Sporting three regular season wins in a nine-day period for the seventh time in club history and only the second time since 2005.

The hot stretch began with an Alan Pulido-inspired 2-1 road win over the Houston Dynamo on Oct. 3 and continued with a 1-0 home defeat of Chicago Fire FC on Oct. 7 in which penalty-saving goalkeeper Tim Melia and goal-scoring center back Winston Reid were the difference makers.

The acclaimed hero on Sunday was Erik Hurtado, who bagged one of Sporting’s all-time greatest goals with a sumptuous volley in the 79th minute on an assist from Amadou Dia. The goal completed a spirited fightback that saw Sporting fall behind to Walker Zimmerman’s first-half header before Johnny Russell assisted Gerso Fernandes’ 53rd-minute equalizer.

Wednesday will now give Sporting a shot at its first four-game regular season winning streak since August 2018.

Thanks to their recent spurt, Sporting sits one point behind Western Conference co-leaders Seattle and Portland and eight points ahead of sixth-place FC Dallas.

Both teams are well-positioned to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs, as the top eight finishers in the West will punch a postseason ticket.

Aside from finishing above the playoff line, a thoroughly compelling race is developing at the top. The team that sits atop the table at the conclusion of the regular season will have homefield advantage in the playoffs through the conference final.

Sporting and Dallas have met twice previously this season at Children’s Mercy Park. The visitors emerged with four points in those two encounters, including a 1-1 stalemate on Sept. 2 and a simmering 3-2 result on Sept. 19 that produced a total of eight yellow cards and a red card to Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta.

First-year striker Franco Jara has made a decisive mark in the series, scoring for Dallas in the 1-1 draw and notching a brace in his team’s victory last month. Sporting are 0-3-1 versus Dallas in the last four meetings dating back to 2019.

Dallas will enter the contest on a full week of rest after their weekend fixture versus Minnesota United FC was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Veteran center back Matt Hedges has played in all but one of Dallas’ 15 games this season, but he sustained a muscle injury in a 2-0 loss at Houston on Oct. 7 and will be sidelined on Wednesday.

Second-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez has a strong cast of defenders to call upon, however, as Dallas’ 17 goals allowed are tied for the fewest in the Western Conference. Hedges’ most likely replacement is Bressan, a 27-year-old Brazilian with four starts under his belt this season.

Sporting will also be forced to cope with the absence of a key defender, as right back Graham Zusi will miss his second straight game with a foot injury. Twenty-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Jaylin Lindsey filled in for Zusi on Sunday and has started six of seven MLS appearances this year, racking up a career-high 609 minutes.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men face a quick turnaround following Wednesday’s match, as they will travel to face Chicago on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field. This week will cap a busy period of the schedule that requires Sporting to play five times in 15 days.

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