KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If Sporting Kansas City’s fans wondered where the goals were going to come from after Dom Dwyer’s trade to Orlando City SC, they got their answer.
From all over the place.
Even without Dwyer – and with leading scorer Gersosuspended for one match by the MLS Disciplinary Committee – Sporting hung three goals on the Chicago Fire on Saturday night and retook the Western Conference lead with a 3-2 victory.
The scoring mix included youngsters as well as Sporting’s veteran playmaker, with Benny Feilhaber’s point-blank bicycle kick in first-half stoppage time bracketed by Daniel Salloi’s long run and finish in the 23rd minute and Latif Blessing’s close-range deflection in the 51st.
“They were hungry,” manager Peter Vermes said in his postmatch news conference. “I knew that putting Daniel out there, he’s going to go for goals. His movement is going to be very good in the fact that he can hold the ball up very well and bring players into the game.
“I also thought that Latif was very dangerous in the first half – really dangerous in the first half. He stretched the defense a lot and they weren’t ready for it. But being able to play through a focal point up front was a big piece of tonight’s success.”
Blessing now has five goals across all competitions and Salloi has four – and both have come up big in big matches this month, with Blessing scoring twice and Salloi adding a late dagger when Sporting erupted in extra time to beat FC Dallas 3-0 on July 11 in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Center forward Diego Rubio, who made his third straight start across all competitions after returning from a season-ending ACL injury in 2016, assisted on Blessing’s goal (and was initially credited with it before replays showed the deflection) and was narrowly denied a second assist when Salloi pushed a second-half shot just wide.
“I was telling somebody before that I thought that between Diego and Daniel, it’s almost like they’ve been playing together for 10 years with the relationship and combination play,” Vermes said. “The ball that Diego plays him here late in the second half, where he kind of goes to his left and cuts back to the right and slips in through, and Daniel misses it to the far post, that was a fantastic little combination. It was very good. Daniel’s movement off the ball was good."
“But Diego was very good in holding the ball up for us 1894448512" tabindex="0">tonight," Vermes added. "It caused a lot of problems for them. It’s amazing that he doesn’t have a hat trick 1894448513" tabindex="0">tonight, honestly.”
Rubio acknowledged hearing speculation about how Sporting would take up the slack after Dwyer’s trade, but said that wasn’t the club’s main motivation.
“Yeah of course we want to score goals,” he said. “We want to score goals. We want to help the team. But it’s not just to score goals, it’s to win. Win every game. And today, everybody was going for the same goal, to win. We are happy. I think all the team did a really good job.”