Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls

Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi controls the ball during the second half of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 20. Sporting Kansas City defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-1.

Sporting Kansas City’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy had all the makings of a Sunday afternoon game: a noticeable amount of empty seats, a slow pace, and a team that didn’t play like it wanted to be there.

Los Angeles demonstrated on Sunday afternoon why it sits just one point above the last-place Colorado Rapids in the MLS, with Los Angeles head coach Siegfried Schmid’s team putting in a lackluster performance at Children’s Mercy Park.

“At the end of the day, I think we were mentally tough, and I think for them, they struggled a little bit with the heat,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “We took advantage of that by keeping the ball and also the movement off the ball was huge, too.”

Facing little resistance in the first half, Kansas City forward Diego Rubio appeared to have given Kansas City the lead in the eighth minute, smashing the ball into the roof of the net from close range. But the Chilean’s celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag, as he deemed Kansas City Seth Sinovic, who supplied the pass to Rubio, as offside.

Having spent a majority of the first half with the ball, more chances for Kansas City came slick and fast, with the breakthrough coming just 10 minutes later through forward Daniel Salloi. Taking the ball on the right wing, Rubio sent a short cross to the front post for Salloi to run onto in front of Los Angeles defender Michael Ciana and poke the ball past goalkeeper Clement Diop for the first goal.

Wheeling towards the corner flag, Salloi sent kisses towards his family members in the crowd, who are currently visiting Kansas City from Hungary. It was Salloi’s second goal in as many games, with the Hungarian making a good case to be a starter for Kansas City during his rookie year.

“In this environment, your confidence is always high,” Salloi said. “The club is very positive even though you make mistakes, we just work on it, that’s why I’ve been improving a lot and can be a better player every day.”

Continuing to capitalize on Los Angeles’s high line, Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sánchez sent an inch-perfect pass through the Galaxy defense for the Kansas City left back Sinovic.

Sinovic, who took advantage of a Los Angeles out-of-position right back Gyasi Zardes all game, ran unmarked towards goal, before sliding a quick pass to the back post for Rubio pass the ball into the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.

After the 15 minute halftime break, Los Angeles appeared to show a little more fight, firing off five shots in the second 45 minutes – three more than they managed in the first half.

While showing a little more movement, Los Angeles forward Giovani dos Santos did manage to get the ball into the back of Kansas City’s net following a deft lob over Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia, but he was flagged offside several seconds earlier.

Riding on its momentum, Los Angeles then had a deflected shot cleared off the line by Kansas City defender Ike Opara. Just two minutes later in the 58th minute, midfielder Romain Alessandrini pulled one back for the Galaxy off a free kick from about 27 yards out.

Alessandrini has been one of few bright spots for Los Angeles this season, bagging 10 goals and 10 assists so far.

Kansas City regained control of the game after the brief lack of concentration, and ended up winning 2-1 to move within a point of the Western Conference lead.

The current Western Conference leading Vancouver Whitecaps will travel to Kansas City on Saturday, Sept. 30 in a crunch-match that could decide who takes the No. 1 seed in the West heading into the playoffs.

“We know that going into next weekend, the hottest team in MLS, in Vancouver, is coming here,” Vermes said. “It’s going to be a difficult match for us obviously, because they’re flying.”

The game against Vancouver is set for an 8 p.m. kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park.