Sporting Kansas City are through to the Western Conference Semifinals after a dominant 3-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Round One of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs at Children's Mercy Park on Saturday night.

Khiry Shelton and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin each netted in the first half, with Graham Zusi scoring a banger just shy of the hour-mark to complete the scoring for the hosts. Cristian Dajome briefly equalized for the Whitecaps with a first-half penalty kick, but that was the only goal the visitors could muster.

Sporting KC were on the front foot early and got rewarded with the opener on 17 minutes. Zusi provided the assist with a first-time feed back across goal that set up Shelton with a close-range finish.

The Whitecaps equalized from the penalty spot in the 39th minute. The spot-kick was awarded after Video Review by referee Alan Kelly for a handball on SKC defender Luis Martins, and converted by Dajome, who sent Tim Melia the wrong way and cashed home the equalizer.

But Vancouver couldn't carry the 1-1 scoreline to halftime, conceding the go-ahead goal on the final play of the first half. Isimat-Mirin pounced on a loose ball in the box after the Whitecaps couldn't clear a Johnny Russell corner kick, allowing the French defender to poke home the finish right on the goalmouth.

Zusi then found the dagger in the 58th minute with a legitimate golazo. The veteran defender uncorked a vicious shot to the top corner from deep outside the penalty area that evaded the outstretched arms of diving Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.

Goals

  • 17' - SKC - Khiry Shelton | WATCH
  • 39' - VAN - Cristian Dajome (PK) | WATCH
  • 45'+3' - SKC - Nicolas Isimat-Mirin | WATCH
  • 58' - SKC - Graham Zusi | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Sporting KC backed into the playoffs with three straight regular-season losses, but this was a comprehensive get-right performance, as they largely handled Vancouver outside of the one lapse on the penalty kick. Peter Vermes' group certainly has the look of MLS Cup contenders. It's a disappointing way for Vancouver to end their season, but the 'Caps have much to be proud of for their feel-good run under interim boss Vanni Sartini. The Whitecaps' second-half surge leaves reason to feel optimistic about the future as they look ahead to 2022.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: This highlight-reel strike from Zusi extinguished any hopes the Whitecaps had of mounting a second-half comeback.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Zusi logged a vintage performance with his goal and assist, showing again that he's very much still got it at age 35. This performance only adds to his status as a club legend.

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