Connor Hallisey - Sporting Kansas City - CONCACAF Champions League
USA Today Sports

Sporting KC reserves make the most of the opportunity in CCL play

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Three players, three stories, three newly-opened accounts for Sporting Kansas City.

With Sporting already eliminated from quarterfinal consideration going into Wednesday night's Group C CONCACAF Champions League finale against Trinidad and Tobago side Central FC, manager Peter Vermes elected to stock the attacking corps with reserves and call-ups from USL side Swope Park Rangers.

They made the most of that opportunity, with forwards Cameron Porter, Nansel Selbol and Connor Hallisey all finding the net in a 3-1 victory – Sporting's first of the competition after a 0-2-1 start.

Porter's goal was the second of his career – both in CCL play – and his first since March 2015, when he was with the Montreal Impact. Later that month, he sustained a torn ACL that forced him to miss the rest of the season and he joined Sporting this summer in a trade for left back Amadou Dia.

“The biggest thing – it's my first goal for Sporting, but also the first goal since my knee injury,” said Porter, whose 49th-minute equalizer launched Kansas City's winning second-half surge. “It just feels nice to get the weight off your chest, to get the confidence there.”

Selbol's goal, a 55th-minute strike for a 2-1 lead, came on his debut for Sporting – a call-up that materialized after he was sent off with two yellow cards in last weekend's Western Conference final, a 3-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps 2. The resulting suspension will keep him out of Sunday's USL Cup final against New York Red Bulls 2 at Red Bull Arena.

“For the goal, I was really, really happy,” said Selbol, who narrowly missed out on a hat trick when he hit the right goalpost twice in the second half. “I'm playing with the first team and this is a big chance for me. I did good, so I'm really happy.”

Hallisey, whose struggles to break into the scoring column have become social media fodder for Sporting's supporters this season, assisted on Selbol's goal and then broke nearly two years of frustration when he converted a stoppage-time penalty kick.

Teammates mobbed him at the spot in celebration, but the reaction from his manager was more measured. It was good to see Hallisey finally break into the scoring column, Vermes said, but the winger – one of Sporting's three first-round picks in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft – still has a way to go.

“He's had a lot of chances,” Vermes said. “It was good to see that he wanted to take the penalty kick, but he's had a lot of chances and a lot of missed opportunities. You've also got to score the ones through the run of play. It's good that he scored, but he's got to score through the run of play.”

In the back line, Vermes was able to get full-90 outings from center backs Ike Opara and Nuno Coelho – both of whom have struggled with injuries this season. He also used left back Jimmy Medranda, who was coming off a caution-accumulation suspension in MLS play. Defensive midfielder Lawrence Olum, also coming off injury, worked the last 20 minutes.

Those were all encouraging signs for Vermes, whose club is clinging to the sixth and final Western Conference berth in the Audi 2016 MLS playoffs heading into Sunday's regular-season finale against San Jose (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE).

“We have a lot of guys injured,” he said. "We have a lot of guys coming back from injury. The fact that all those guys were able to get 90 minutes on a Wednesday night and then we have our game on Sunday, everybody is available.”