April 9, 2022 – Major League Soccer (MLS) – Sporting Kansas City News Release
Sporting Kansas City (2-5-0, 6 points) saw its perfect home record snapped in a narrow 2-1 loss to Nashville SC (3-2-1, 10 points) on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
In an entertaining and hotly contested battle that saw both teams eclipse 18 shot attempts-only the second such MLS match in the 12-year history of Children’s Mercy Park-Sporting went ahead on a blistering 25th-minute strike from French midfielder Remi Walter. Nashville fought back in the second stanza, however, as Dave Romney’s header restored parity and C.J. Sapong put his former club to the sword with a game-winning tally in the 68th minute.
Having lost five of their first seven matches for the first time since 2011-when they wound up finishing atop the Eastern Conference-Sporting will look to bounce back on April 17 by visiting Western Conference heavyweights LAFC (4-1-1, 13 points) for an Eastern Sunday showdown at Banc of California Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. CT with national coverage on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app.
Both Sporting Kansas City lineup changes from a 1-0 road loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC last weekend came in the midfield, as 21-year-old Cam Duke stepped in for Felipe Hernandez and Roger Espinoza replaced the injured Uri Rosell. It was also a milestone evening for Sporting’s dynamic wing duo, as 2021 MLS MVP finalist Daniel Salloi earned his 100th start for the club in all competitions and captain Johnny Russell eclipsed 10,000 career minutes played in a Kansas City uniform.
Russell, who on Friday turned 32 years old, was inches away from opening the scoring in spectacular fashion after four minutes. The Scottish forward isolated himself on the left wing, cut centrally onto his patented left boot and unleashed a curler that screamed past Nashville goalkeeper Joe Wilis and marginally wide of the far post.
Nashville conjured an immediate response of their own, as Alex Muyl’s cushioned header across the face of goal was nearly prodded home by the lurking Hany Mukhtar, only to be crucially cut out by Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia. The visitors threatened once more in the 12th minute and Muyl thought he had given his side the lead after slamming home off a cushioned header from Sapong, but the offside flag was raised and the goal was disallowed.
Referee Ismael Elfath awarded Nashville a penalty kick a few moments later as Nicolas Isimat-Mirin tackled Mukhtar to the turf, but the prolific playmaker was foiled by the magisterial Melia on the subsequent spot kick. Mukhtar placed his penalty straight down the middle and Melia held his ground, casting the shot aside for his 12th career penalty kick save in the regular season-six more than any other goalkeeper since 2015.
The early stages of the contest continued to unfold in breathless fashion and Sporting crafted a pair of excellent chances near the 20-minute mark. Left back Ben Sweat ran onto a pinpoint long ball from Andreu Fontas and forced a reflex save from Willis at the near post. Willis produced an even more impressive stop shortly thereafter, getting an outstretched hand on Salloi’s powerful header off a delectable Graham Zusi cross.
Manager Peter Vermes’ side were rewarded for their attacking intent with a wonderfully worked goal in the 25th minute. Salloi slithered past Nashville midfielder Randall Leal on the left sideline and burst into the final third before slipping a clever through ball to the overlapping Sweat. The veteran defender then sent a lovely pullback pass across Nashville’s penalty area that found an unmarked Walter, whose ruthless finish rippled the back of the net and sent Children’s Mercy Park into delirium. The goal, whjch punctuated a flowing 17-pass sequence from the hosts, was Walter’s second of the season and Sporting’s maiden first-half goal of 2022, with Sweat tabbing his first assist as a Kansas City player.
Faced with a 1-0 deficit, Nashville remained committed to pushing numbers forward themselves and entered halftime with 11 shot attempts-the third-most by a visiting team in the first half at Children’s Mercy Park since 2012-but were made to wait until the 51st minute for their equalizer. Mukhtar spread his free kick wide right to an open Leal, whose curling delivery into the six-yard area was met by Romney and nodded past a helpless Melia for his first MLS goal since August 2020. Mukhtar was credited with a secondary assist on the play and is now tied for second in MLS with four assists this year.
The teams exchanged punches in the 10 minutes that followed. Mukhtar was denied on the breakaway by the imperious Melia, while Hernandez-who had replaced Duke at halftime-uncorked a venomous, long-range free kick that Willis leapt to parry away.
Nashville surged ahead with a fortuitous goal in the 68th minute. Romney’s long throw into the box pinged around a crowded penalty box, taking touches off Muyl and Sean Davis before falling to the feet of Sapong, whose close-range finish under Melia gave him two goals on the season and his first goal at Children’s Mercy Park since he played for Sporting in 2014.
With 69 minutes on the clock, Melia made a superb near-post stop to deny Leal and keep Sporting’s deficit at one goal. At the opposite end, Davis bailed out Nashville by blocking Russell’s headed attempt on the goal line and clearing the ball upfield.
Zusi and Sporting were left ruing their luck with under 10 minutes remaining. The 35-year-old veteran was afforded space 30 yards from goal and hammered a heat-seeking strike that bent wide of the right post by the slimmest of margins. Frustrations were further compounded in the 89th minute as Russell’s pass near the top of the box was dummied by substitute Marinos Tzionis and reached Salloi, whose shot beat Willis at the far post but caromed off the woodwork.
A back-and-ford affair dripped into extra time and Sporting continued their desperate hunt for a leveler, with Vujnovic winning possession and playing to Salloi for a scorching shot that lifted over the crossbar. Russell was next to see his late bid go begging, running onto a cutback from Logan Ndenbe and firing wide inside the box.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On what went wrong in the second half…
Terrible mentality. Terrible defending mentality. Just terrible. Horrendous.
On the goals conceded…
At the end of the day, we should never have given those situations away in the game. Tim (Melia) does a great job and makes a save. We go up 1-0 at halftime. We’re obviously now in a good position. We come in and figure out whatever adjustments we want at halftime then we go out in the second half and for us to give up those two goals is just terrible on our part. Terrible defensively. Terrible mentality. That’s what it really comes down to. Whether any of that stuff was offside or not, at the end of the day, you have still got to defend and you shouldn’t be giving those situations away like that. It’s a big difference when a guy is five yards offside. Okay, I get it because you cut your line and all that. But the rest of it, nope, that’s on us. It’s not on the referees. It’s on us.
On the midfield tactics…
We had to scratch Uri (Rosell) before the game. We were working towards playing him, but he couldn’t go. We had been training a certain way, so I just didn’t want to do two moves for the game. And I actually thought that it worked well. I thought Remi (Walter) played really well in that position. It’s where his best place is. It’s where he’s really functional for us. He’s busy, he’s agile, he’s good on the ball, he wins stuff, he makes good runs in there and he’s quick. So we needed him in that part of the field. I didn’t feel bad about that at all.
I thought that when Marinos (Tzionis) and (Nikola) Vujnovic came on, those two guys, they helped us in that last 20 minutes big time. They were busy. They helped us create a lot. Now, you can’t go overboard because when another team’s winning 2-1 and the other team is playing away from home, they start to sit in just a little bit and you start to put the pressure on because you’ve got nothing to lose. So you can’t go over the top there. But those two guys were really good and they were a handful for the other team. They caused a lot of problems so that was really good to see. I would look forward to seeing those guys a lot more going forward because if other guys go out don’t want to play, don’t want to fight for it, we’ve got other guys that have to step up and give them a chance.
On the first goal conceded…
That was actually a really simple play. That was actually an easier play than if they would have stuck the ball in on the first ball. The fact that we couldn’t manage that, just terrible on us as a staff and everything.
On the team’s halftime substitution…
We wanted to make an adjustment. (Cam) Duke hasn’t played a lot of games so getting both those guys in and giving them a chance to share the game was good just from a legs point of view.
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia
On the penalty kick in the first half…
I think it was soft. I’ll have to go back and watch it. But he’s in a position going away from goal. (Nicolas Isimat-Mirin) is in between him and myself. I don’t know if he gets him or not, but ultimately I thought it was pretty soft, but that was kind of the consistency within the game.
On Peter Vermes’ comments about the team’s mentality on defending set pieces in the second half…
He’s 100% right. We’re at home. We have a great fan base. We’re up a goal and we are collectively, every single one of us on the field, too soft in those moments. We shouldn’t shy away from that. We need to correct it. We need to do better. He’s 100% right, because on the first one – say whatever we want about the ref, the call, it doesn’t really make a difference – the play happens. There’s too many guys open on the back stick. When the ball goes out wide, we’re not shifting. It’s something that we have to look at as players; no one else but the players, because we’re the ones on the field. We’re making the decisions. We’re controlling the results at that point. We all need to do better, myself included.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez
Thoughts on the second half…
Just really soft goals and something that we need to fix. It’s been a few games where we’ve given up soft goals, so we just need to work on that and we’ll get it done.
On what went wrong with the two goals conceded from set pieces…
Just a little slow. I think we reacted second and we were always on the back foot. They were just on the front foot so that’s probably it.
On taking set pieces for Sporting…
I feel like I’ve always been pretty good at set pieces, whether it’s a corner or a free kick. Peter and the coaching staff put me there to do that. So if they need me to do it, then I’ll do it.
2022 MLS Regular Season | Match 7
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 59 degrees and clear
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (2-5-0, 6 points) 1 0 1
Nashville SC (3-2-1, 10 points) 0 2 2
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontas, Ben Sweat (Logan Ndenbe 84′); Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza (Marinos Tzionis 76′), Cam Duke (Felipe Hernandez 46′); Johnny Russell (C), Khiry Shelton (Nikola Vujnovic 76′), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Kortne Ford, Robert Voloder
Nashville SC: Joe Willis; Jack Mahar, Walker Zimmerman (C), Dave Romney; Alex Muyl, Tah Anunga (Anibal Godoy 77′), Sean Davis, Taylor Washington; Randall Leal (Luke Haakenson 90+1′), C.J. Sapong, Hany Mukhtar (Ethan Zubak 90+2′)
Subs Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Josh Bauer, Daniel Lovitz, Eric Miller, Handwalla Bwana, Ake Loba
SKC — Remi Walter 2 (Ben Sweat 1, Daniel Salloi 1) 25′
NSH — Dave Romney 1 (Randall Leal 2, Hany Mukhtar 4) 51′
NSH — C.J. Sapong 2 (Alex Muyl 1, Sean Davis 1) 68′
SKC — Cam Duke (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 17′
SKC — Roger Espinoza (yellow card; time wasting) 52′
SKC — Felipe Hernandez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 63′
NSH — Taylor Washington (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 79′
Stat SKC NSH
Shots 18 19
Shots on Goal 5 6
Saves 4 4
Fouls 12 16
Offsides 1 3
Corner Kicks 5 5
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referee: Cory Richardson
Assistant Referee: Diego Blas
Fourth Official: Greg Dopka
VAR: Jair Marrufo
AVAR: Eric Weisbrod
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