Russell celebrates return with game-winner over Salt Lake

Forward Johnny Russell celebrated his game-winning goal in the 81st minute of Sporting Kansas City’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

Johnny Russell’s 81st minute goal won Sporting Kansas City their second consecutive 1-0 home match and stopped the momentum of conference rival Real Salt Lake, which came in undefeated through its first four games.

The Sporting captain’s goal started with a feed from right back Graham Zusi. Russell broke to his left, shaking off three would-be tacklers along the top of the penalty area. His attempt to play the ball through to Khiry Shelton was blocked by defender Tate Schmitt but ricocheted back to Russell in a quantum of open space near the penalty spot.

He did not hesitate to blast the ball inside the left post, past a sliding defender and diving goalkeeper.

After the game, the Scottish winger described the “bit of luck” involved in scoring his first of the season.

“It’s about time we get a goal like that,” Russell said. “I feel like a lot of teams get goals like that against us. We always seem to have to carve a team up to get a goal like that. It was nice. It fell perfectly for me.”

Russell’s parents and two brothers were in attendance, visiting from Scotland for the first time in two years and celebrating his daughter’s fifth birthday, though she left at halftime and missed dad’s goal.

Back after missing a game with a hamstring injury, Russell played 84 minutes before being subbed out for Kortne Ford. Also back from injury were Daniel Salloi, who played all 90 minutes, and Khiry Shelton, who came on as a substitute in the 62nd minute.

Sporting will travel to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps on April 2 then will return home a game against Nashville on April 9.

Just moments before his game-winner, a near miss on a goal-scoring chance in the second half left forward Johnny Russell frustrated. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Roger Espinoza headed the ball to the wing. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Nikola Vujnovic got a hard challenge from Salt Lake defender Marcelo Silva. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Left back Ben Sweat crossed the ball to the Salt Lake goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Daniel Salloi had a goal-scoring chance in the first minute of the game, but sent it just wide of the far post. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Daniel Salloi’s would-be bicycle kick would have been a goal to remember. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

Walter’s solo goal wins Sporting KC home opener

Midfielder Remi Walter knocked in a rebounded shot for the game-winning goal in Sporting Kansas City’s home opener against the Houston Dynamo. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

Sporting Kansas City delighted a full crowd of fans at their home opener, winning 1-0 over the Houston Dynamo. Midfielder Remi Walter scored the game winner in the 60th minute, his second MLS goal.

Sporting had the better of the first half, holding the ball 64 percent of the time and recovering quickly after any change in possession. Content to play back, Houston got off only one shot in the period and didn’t test Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia.

After the break, Kansas City continued to press forward. Walter, playing as a defensive midfielder due to the injury to Uri Rosell, earned a shot in the 48th minute but hit it wide.

He got a redemptive opportunity in the 60th minute when a close-range Daniel Salloi was blocked by defender Zarek Valentin. The rebound came to Walter, charging up the center at the edge of the 18-yard box. His strike slipped low and just inside the left post.

With the change on the scoreboard, the roles on the field reversed — Kansas City now content to play lower while Houston pressed forward.

The Dynamo had an opportunity for an equalizer on a giveaway on a distribution from Melia in the 80th minute, but Darwin Quintero’s shot sailed wide and into the seats.

Marinos Tzionis made his Children’s Mercy Park debut, coming on late for Khiry Shelton. He showcased his speed on a couple of breakaways and earned Kansas City a free kick just outside the penalty area.

Johnny Russell and Salloi nearly doubled the advantage in the 86th minute, but Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark knocked away Salloi’s effort.

After the game, defender Graham Zusi analyzed the team’s performance.

“We lacked maybe a little bit of the final pass movements or finish,” the 14-year Sporting veteran said, “but I think that possession made them a bit tired and opened up things in the second half. I thought we continued to be patient in the second half. When you do that, eventually spaces are going to open and they did.”

Kansas City’s next game will be on the road against the Colorado Rapids next Saturday at 8 p.m. The next home match is March 26 against Real Salt Lake.

Forward Johnny Russell made a valiant effort to salvage a ball on the Houston endline. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Roger Espinoza slid in to slip the ball past the Houston back line. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Felipe Hernandez headed the ball near the Houston goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Logan Ndenbe found space for a run up the middle. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Felipe Hernandez got to the ball just after Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Daniel Salloi’s shot sailed into the stands. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


A sliding tackle from Houston defender Adam Lundkvist dispossessed forward Johnny Russell. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Johnny Russell outleaped Houston defender Adam Lundkvist for a header. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Daniel Salloi took a shot from the right side of the Houston goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

Sporting KC placed in group with Real Salt Lake, Colorado and Minnesota for tournament

Sporting Kansas City has learned their three group stage opponents for the historic MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, joining Group D alongside fellow Western Conference clubs Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United FC.

Sporting Kansas City’s three group stage matches will count toward the 2020 MLS regular season standings, with a full tournament schedule-including match dates and broadcast details-to be announced.

The MLS is Back Tournament draw unfolded Thursday, placing all 26 clubs into six separate groups. Groups A, C and E consist of the 14 Eastern Conference clubs-six teams in Group A and four each in Groups C and E-while Groups B, D and F each consist of four Western Conference teams. Nashville SC has moved to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 campaign.

The top two finishers in each group and the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout rounds, with a single-elimination bracket from the Round of 16 onward. Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knockout phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.

Group stage play will begin July 8 with the tournament opener between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF, the league announced. The Round of 16 will run from July 25 to 28, followed by the Quarterfinals (July 30 to Aug. 1), Semifinals (Aug. 5 to 6) and Championship on Aug. 11.

The tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League and all clubs will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.

Sporting and Real Salt Lake share a rich history as fierce rivals over the last decade. Manager Peter Vermes’ men notably defeated RSL in MLS Cup 2013 and the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals at Children’s Mercy Park as well as the 2015 and 2018 editions of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The Colorado Rapids are Sporting’s most frequent opponent in club history, as the sides have met 78 times since the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign. Across all competitions, Sporting owns a 5-3-2 mark against regional foes Minnesota United FC since the Loons joined MLS in 2017.

Upon completion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup. The final number of matches and the revised schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season will be unveiled in the coming weeks.