Russell extends scoring streak, earns KC home playoff match

Forward Johnny Russell pushed past defender Niko Hamalainen to score his first goal in a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday evening. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The rain didn’t stop Wednesday evening and neither did Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell, who scored both goals against the Los Angeles Galaxy in a 2-0 win. The goals extended Russell’s club record scoring streak to 8 consecutive matches.

Reserve goalkeeper John Pulskamp, pressed into service due to Tim Melia’s one-game suspension, kept the visitors off the board with two saves on well-hit Galaxy shots.

Sporting just missed an opportunity for an early lead in the 2nd minute. A corner kick from Russell fell to Ilie Sanchez, but his shot banged off the goalpost.

Kansas City had another flurry of shots near the quarter-hour mark, along with four consecutive corner kicks, but the Galaxy defense held fast.

Pulskamp earned his first save of the match when he got a leg on a shot from Dejan Joveljic in the 30th minute.

Five minutes before the break, Russell put Kansas City on the scoreboard. Gadi Kinda passed the ball to the Scottish forward in the right corner. Russell slipped the ball past defender Niko Hamalainen to earn a clean shot that he rocketed between the goalkeeper and the near post.

At the defensive end, Pulskamp picked up his second save in the 60th minute, smothering a shot at close range, and defender Luis Martins made a sliding block to deny the Galaxy an equalizing goal in the 73rd minute.

In the 83rd minute, Russell scored again off a pass from Kinda. From the right side, he curled the ball into the upper left corner of the net to double the lead.

The win puts Kansas City back atop the MLS Western Conference standings, and it assures them of at least one home game in the MLS Cup playoffs that start Nov. 20.

Kansas City has two games on the road at Minnesota (Oct. 31) and Austin (Nov. 3) before returning home to face Real Salt Lake in the regular season finale on Nov. 7.

Johnny Russell made a sliding tackle to break up a run by LA defender Derrick Williams. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
LA defender Sega Coulibaly leaped to clear a ball in front of the LA goal. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell and Graham Zusi clowned around with a professional wrestling move in honor of suspended teammate Tim Melia. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
Midfielder Roger Espinoza tangled with LA defender Julian Araujo along the left sideline. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
LA midfielder Rayan Raveloson tracked Ilie Sanchez, playing as a midfielder in the match. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Khiry Shelton went to the ground on a run up the middle. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
Midfielder Remi Walter’s shot on the LA goal was blocked. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
LA defender Derrick Williams slid in to block forward Johnny Russell. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell scored his second goal of the match in the 82nd minute. (Photo copyright 2021 by Brian Turrel)

LA Galaxy to visit Sporting KC on Wednesday

Major playoff implications are on the line Wednesday as second-place Sporting Kansas City (16-7-7, 55 points) plays host to fifth-place LA Galaxy (13-11-7, 46 points) in a 7:55 p.m. kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Tickets are available at SeatGeek.com. The Western Conference clash will air nationally on FS1 and FOX Deportes with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. Fans can also stream the action live on the FOX Sports app or on FOXSports.com. There will be live updates throughout the contest from @SKCMatchday on Twitter.

Looking to finish atop the West for the third time in four seasons, Sporting Kansas City picked up three major points from first place Seattle Sounders on Saturday. The attention now turns to the LA Galaxy in a midweek match between MLS originals.

Having clinched a playoff berth, Sporting KC is one of seven teams in the West who following Decision Day on Nov. 7 will advance to the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.

The top-seeded club receives a bye to the conference semifinals. Sporting can clinch a home playoff match with a result against the Galaxy or a Portland draw or loss to San Jose on Wednesday evening. Sporting’s 10 postseason appearances over the 11 years are second-most among Western Conference teams behind only the Sounders, who have reached the playoffs every year since joining MLS in 2009.

Saturday will mark the second meeting between Sporting and the Galaxy this year. Sporting took all three points in the previous meeting on July 4 in a 2-0 victory.

Forwards Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton netted late goals while Tim Melia saved seven shots for the clean sheet. At home, Sporting has lost just one of 12 regular season games against the Galaxy dating back to 2008.

Manager Peter Vermes has had the squad playing high-caliber soccer all season long. With three wins in their last four matches, Sporting will look to knock Seattle out of the top spot in the West. Just three points back and with a game in hand, Sporting has a chance to make a run at the Western Conference No. 1 seed.

With goals in his last seven appearances, Russell now holds the longest scoring streak in MLS this season. He is one of six MLS players with 12 goals and seven assists this year alongside Daniel Salloi, whose 24 combined goals (16) and assists (eight) tie the league lead with Gustavo Bou of New England. Russell and Salloi have paced a Sporting attack that leads the West with 54 goals scored and 1.8 goals per match.

Holding down the midfield on Saturday, Sporting’s Remi Walter received an MLS Team of the Week selection as a starter. His first career MLS goal helped lift Sporting past the Sounders, as he provided excellent support in the midfield.

First-year head coach Greg Vanney has the Galaxy in form. After a poor September in which the Galaxy only collected two points, the team has earned results in four straight games. The Galaxy rank in the top 10 in MLS in goals scored with 46.

Led by Mexican international Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (14 goals, three assists), midfielder Sacha Kljestan (five goals, four assists), U.S. MNT player Sebastian Lletget (two goals, four assists), defender Julian Araujo (five assists) and goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, the Galaxy find themselves in the thick of a playoff battle.

Fifth place is above the playoff line but would force the Galaxy into a first-round road game. LA is tied on points with fourth-place Portland and will look to improve its place in the standings at midweek.

Both teams come into the match with injury concerns. On the Galaxy side, Jorge Villafana is listed as questionable while Nick DePuy will miss this match due to caution accumulation. Sporting will not have striker Alan Pulido (knee) and defender Jaylin Lindsey (hamstring). Salloi and midfielder Jose Mauri are questionable both with ankle ailments.

Sporting has been excellent at home, coming into its penultimate regular season home match with an 8-2-5 record. With just two weeks left in the regular season and both teams jockeying for higher seeds in the playoffs, everything is to play for Wednesday night.

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KC NWSL to build new stadium in Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City NWSL stated today, in a news release, that it would build a new soccer stadium at Berkley Riverfront Park in Kansas City, Missouri.

The team currently plays its matches at the Legends Field in Kansas City, Kansas, sharing the field with the Kansas City Monarchs baseball team.

According to a spokesman for the club, the new $70 million stadium would be the first soccer stadium built for that purpose for a National Women’s Soccer League team.

It has been just over 10 months since the group was awarded a franchise, according to a spokesman.

Today’s announcement follows previously released plans for a privately-funded $15 million training facility in Riverside, Missouri, and plans to play home matches during the 2022 season at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas City NWSL is nearing the end of its inaugural season of play and will be in action for its final match at Legends Field on Saturday, Oct. 30.

“From the beginning, our vision has been to create a player-first experience, and facilities for our team that match not only the elite level of these incredible athletes, but also the passionate support of the Kansas City metro and our fans,” said KC NWSL co-founder and co-owner Chris Long, in a news release. “We believe this significant investment and commitment will shape a stronger future for our entire region and our athletes.”

With final designs still in development, the estimated $70 million project will be entirely privately financed through the ownership group, with the team signing a 50-year lease for Parcel 8, the 7.08-acre site on the east end of the Berkley Riverfront in Kansas City, Missouri. Primary design and construction partners include Kansas City-based Generator Studio, JE Dunn and Monarch Build.

“As a sports fan and a father, I am so proud that Kansas City will make history in having a world-class facility dedicated to women in sport and that the project will be a centerpiece of our beautiful riverfront redevelopment,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, in the news release.

“The goals for reclaiming our long-neglected riverfront have been bold but clear – develop a connected, accessible, vibrant and diverse neighborhood,” said Port KC President and CEO Jon Stephens, in the news release. “Anchoring a dynamic facility such as this on the downtown riverfront, and connecting it to the heart of our city with the KC Streetcar, trails and greenspace not only solidifies our commitment, but also proves that there is no better place for our community and the world to gather.”

“World-class facilities have proven to be a catalyst in transforming all professional sports,” said KC NWSL co-founder and co-owner Angie Long in the news release. “Tremendous momentum exists in women’s sports specifically, and we are so proud to play a major role in ensuring the sport and also our region benefit from the economics and growth offered by a stadium of this magnitude.”