Sporting Kansas City (11-16-7, 40 points) saw its seven-match unbeaten run and three-game winning streak snapped in a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas (14-9-11, 53 points) on Sunday afternoon in the 2022 season finale at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Making the 341st regular season appearance of his career, Sporting defender Graham Zusi buried a 51st-minute equalizer after Dallas had taken a first-half lead through Sebastian Lletget, but the hosts clinched third place in the Western Conference and a home playoff game thanks to Paul Arriola’s match-winner in the 65th minute.
The result cemented a 12th-place finish in the West for Sporting, which was already assured of missing the MLS Cup Playoffs for just the second time in the last 12 years.
Boasting a 5-0-2 record since Aug. 21, Sporting fielded a formidable lineup that featured a single change from last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Seattle Sounders FC as goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh—who ended the day with an impressive six saves—stepped between the posts for his second career MLS appearance.
McIntosh and Sporting thought they were breached in the seventh minute when Dallas cashed in on a bounce of the ball. Arriola poked home from close range after fellow U.S. international Jesus Ferreira pinged a probing ball into the penalty area, but VAR intervened and referee Victor Rivas wiped away the goal for offside after taking a second look at the play.
The teams traded early chances on either side of Arriola’s disallowed strike, with red-hot Sporting striker Willy Agada nodding marginally high off Ben Sweat’s cross and Dallas winger Jader Obrian having a header comfortably saved by McIntosh. The playoff-bound hosts had a flurry of set piece opportunities in the first quarter-hour and McIntosh showcased his shot-stopping prowess with an acrobatic save to deny Jose Antonio Martinez at point-blank range following a free kick, though the Dallas center back was flagged offside and the goal would not have counted.
Midway through the first half, Sporting forward Daniel Salloi tried his luck with an audacious 25-yard belter that screamed narrowly wide of the target. Ten minutes later, Sporting’s patient buildup in the attacking third culminated with Remi Walter smashing a 20-yard shot over the crossbar.
The visitors were victims of bad luck in the 33rd minute when Lletget’s shot from just outside the penalty area took a wicked deflection into the back of the net past a helpless McIntosh, giving Dallas a 1-0 lead to protect. It marked only the third time in the last 10 MLS matches that Sporting has faced a deficit.
Four minutes after the restart, Espinoza tested Dallas goalkeeper Maarten Paes with a low, curling strike from the top of the box that the Dutch gloveman dove to cast aside. The promising look was a harbinger of things to come, however, as Sporting would restore parity shortly thereafter.
With 51 minutes on the clock, Paes leaped high to punch away Sweat’s teasing delivery, but Erik Thommy was first to react inside the box to Zusi, who finished low across the keeper to make the score 1-1. Zusi now has 31 goals in his heralded regular season career, tying Benny Feilhaber and Mo Johnston for ninth on Sporting’s all-time charts.
Buzzing with momentum, Sporting almost surged ahead a few minutes later. A well-orchestrated counterattack involving Agada and Salloi led to an open look from Thommy on the edge of the box, and the German midfielder forced Paes into another diving stop. The Dallas keeper was increasingly busy as Sporting continued to dictate terms, reacting quickly at the near post to get his mitts on Roger Espinoza’s snap header from a pinpoint Thommy cross.
As the game began to open up in the midfield, Sporting paid for a costly giveaway by conceding its second goal in the 65th minute. Dallas midfielder Facundo Quignon pounced on a stray ball in his team’s attacking half and spread the ball down the left channel to substitute Alan Velasco, whose low cross was slotted home on the doorstep by Arriola for his 10th goal of the season.
Sporting captain Johnny Russell went agonizingly close to leveling terms in the 73rd minute, cutting inside from the right wing and curling a brilliantly hit strike inches wide of the far left post. Not long later at the opposite end, McIntosh did well to spring low and save Ferreira’s shot on the breakaway.
Thommy was next to be denied a glorious goal in the 76th minute, performing multiple shot fakes at the top of the box before unleashing a curler that was bound for the right corner, only for Paes to produce an outstanding stop. The hosts would then create danger of their own, with Velasco’s bending effort smacking off the woodwork.
The final moments of the contest delivered breathless end-to-end action, offering players plenty of space to exploit in the center of the park, and McIntosh bagged another great save on the cusp of second-half stoppage time to thwart Ferreira.
Sporting will now enter an important offseason ahead of a banner 2023 campaign, which will begin the final weekend of February with the commencement of Major League Soccer’s 28th season and feature the newly expanded Leagues Cup, a one-of-a-kind tournament involving all clubs from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX that will unfold next summer from July 21 to Aug. 19. Manager Peter Vermes’ men will also compete in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and set their sights on a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Story from Sporting KC