by Brian Turrel
Sporting Kansas City trounced Minnesota United FC on Wednesday evening 4-0. The win pushes Kansas City back into the top spot in the MLS Western Conference and sets up a clash for the lead against the second place Seattle Sounders on Sept. 26.
After Minnesota earned three quick scoring chances in the first five minutes, it looked like Kansas City would be in for a challenging evening. Loons forward Ethan Finlay barely missed changing the early tone of the game, but banged the ball off the crossbar instead.
The momentum reversed quickly, and after Khiry Shelton scored the first goal in the 14th minute, the outcome never looked in doubt again.
Shelton earned his goal off the rebound of a long distance Daniel Salloi shot. Minnesota goalkeeper Tyler Miller made the save but allowed the ball to ricochet back into Shelton’s path. Rushing in toward the goal, he was in just the right spot to nod the ball home.
Shelton missed his chance for a brace just moments later, hitting the crossbar off a centering pass from midfielder Roger Espinoza.
Salloi scored Kansas City’s second goal in the 36th minute. Johnny Russell made a centering pass from deep in the right corner that skittered between defenders and found Salloi in the center of the pitch. He skimmed the ball between a defender’s legs and under Miller’s dive.
Salloi’s goal was his 13th of the season, just one behind conference-leading Raul Ruidiaz of Seattle, and it earned him loud chants of “MVP” from the crowd.
In the final minute of the first half, Shelton raced past the Minnesota defense on an attacking run. Miller scrambled out to the edge of the penalty area to intercept the ball, but tripped Shelton instead with a grab at his boots as he slid underneath the tall Kansas City forward.
Though referee Robert Sibiga didn’t call a penalty at first sight, he did take a video review, and then awarded Kansas City the penalty kick. Johnny Russell’s left-footed strike from the spot put the ball just inside the right post for a 3-0 halftime lead.
Even with a hefty advantage to start the second half, Kansas City didn’t give up the attack. Russell earned his second assist of the match in the 52nd minute, crossing the ball again from the right corner and finding Cam Duke in front of the goal to score his first goal at Children’s Mercy Park.
After the 70th minute Kansas City dropped their defense lower and withstood a bit of Minnesota pressure to see out the match.
Kansas City’s defensive core of Ilie Sanchez and Andreu Fontas continued their solid performance, allowing no Minnesota shots on frame.
Kansas City has over a week to rest before playing the Seattle Sounders at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at Children’s Mercy Park.