Sporting KC Hammers Portland in 4-1 Win
August 22, 2022 – Major League Soccer (MLS) – Sporting Kansas City News Release
Sporting Kansas City (7-15-5, 26 points) swept aside the Portland Timbers (7-8-12, 33 points) with a rampant 4-1 victory at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night. Unplayable striker Willy Agada struck twice-becoming the third player in Kansas City history to score five goals in his first five regular season appearances for the club-with Andreu Fontas and Erik Thommy also finding the back of the net in a wire-to-wire performance against the hapless Timbers, who managed a late consolation goal through Sebastian Blanco.
Enjoying their best attacking form of the year, Sporting has amassed 11 regular season goals over a three-game stretch for the first time since the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign and notched four goals in back-to-back home matches for the first time since May 2015. The result also snapped a seven-game winless skid against Portland, which suffered its most lopsided defeat of the 2022 season.
Convincing winners in two of their last three matches, Sporting will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday by hosting the San Jose Earthquakes (6-11-9, 27 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the clash are available at SeatGeek.com and the contest will be shown live on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com .
For the first time since April 2017, Sporting has rolled out an unchanged lineup in three straight regular season matches. Sunday’s 4-3-3 setup saw the in-form Agada flanked by captain Johnny Russell and winger Daniel Salloi in attack, backed by the midfield trio of Thommy, Remi Walter and Roger Espinoza. Fontas, Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Ben Sweat manned the backline and 21-year-old goalkeeper John Pulskamp stepped between the posts.
The hosts crafted the game’s first scoring chance in the 10th minute when Thommy’s corner kick to the near post was headed across the face of goal by Espinoza and nodded over the bar by a tightly marked Fontas on the edge of the six-yard area. Espinoza asked further questions of the Portland defense six minutes later, slipping a clever through ball in behind for Agada, but the Nigerian’s effort lacked the pace and direction to beat Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic.
Agada lifted Sporting into a deserved lead on the half-hour mark. Afforded space on the right wing, Zusi fizzed in a teasing cross that Portland center back Larrys Mabiala failed to usher clear. The ball fell kindly to Agada, who sent a thumping finish into the roof of the net for his fourth goal in three matches. The 22-year-old is the first Sporting player to bag four goals in a three-game stretch since Russell did so last October and is tied for second in MLS with four goals during the month of August.
Brimming with momentum, Sporting doubled their advantage in the 40th minute with the 1,200th regular season goal in club history. With the Timbers pegged on the backfoot, a pinball sequence in the penalty box culminated with Fontas muscling into possession, swiveling and slamming a left-footed bomb into the left corner past a helpless Ivacic. The 32-year-old Fontas has now scored goals in consecutive league matches for the first time in his heralded career, having opened his 2022 account in last weekend’s 4-3 loss at Austin FC.
Not to be outdone, Thommy blew the roof off Children’s Mercy Park three minutes later with a world-class strike from 25 yards. Agada chased a long ball, turned centrally with his back to goal and laid the ball off to Thommy, who buried a sublime curler into the right corner for his second goal of his young and blossoming MLS career. Remarkably, the long-range stunner made Sporting the first team in MLS history to net three first-half goals in three consecutive matches.
After dominating the first half, Sporting had Pulskamp to thank for preserving the team’s clean sheet shortly after the restart. The Homegrown keeper first raced off his line and got a paw on the ball to prevent Yimmi Chara from firing a shot on the breakaway, then produced a phenomenal save on the rebound by retreating and touching Sebastian Blanco’s audacious 30-yard curler over the crossbar. Not long later, Pulskamp dropped low to smother Dairon Asprilla’s close-range attempt off a Santiago Moreno cross.
Bursting forward with conviction, Sporting went agonizingly close to notching a fourth goal in the 54th minute. Salloi led the breakaway and fed and overlapping Agada, who cut the ball back for Russell. The Scottish winger had his shot cast aside by Ivacic before Agada thundered a right-footed volley inches high.
Immediately thereafter at the opposite end, Pulskamp made another superb diving save to thwart Asprilla at a tight angle. The end-to-end action continued to unfold enticingly as Thommy and Zusi nearly combined at the hour juncture and Moreno belted a 20-yard shot marginally over the bar in the 63rd minute.
After Pulskamp did brilliantly to deny Asprilla once more in the 73rd minute, Agada put the finishing touches on a masterclass performance with 75 minutes on the clock. Sweat surged down the left channel and swept an inch-perfect cross into the path of Agada, who poked home from near the penalty spot to become the second player in Sporting history to net five goals in the span of three regular season appearances, joining Eddie Johnson from 2007. Agada is also the third player in Sporting history to hit five goals in his first five regular season appearances for the club, joining Felipe Gutierrez from 2018 and Miklos Molnar in 2000.
Blanco added an inconsequential goal for the Timbers in the 90th minute, denying Pulskamp a clean sheet despite the keeper’s stout display in goal. The close-range tally was initially waved off for offside, but VAR intervened and referee Armando Villarreal awarded the goal upon looking at the replay.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On the second-half saves from John Pulskamp…
The saves were very good, especially the one early that kind of deflected and he caught it underneath him. That was the big one and that was the important one because if they get that, maybe they get a little momentum. I’m being honest when I say this. At times our psyche is a little fragile, which is normal sometimes in this state. We’re trying to find ourselves. We’re trying to get to a place where we feel comfortable in those situations. If you look at the last three games, we scored four goals, three goals and four goals. That part is excellent. It’s just about us now trying to finish off the game and I think in the second half we were much better. We were getting out, not letting the other team play as much. They also changed their formation. I think one of the things in this game is that when you can get the other team to change the way that they play, you’ve won something. I think the first half proved that. I thought we played very well. I would finish off by just saying I think that we didn’t hold back though. Scoring the fourth goal in the second half was also a really important aspect.
On the importance of the first goal…
I think we were knocking on the door. We were close, we were close, we were close. And that’s the game. Sometimes the game is very unfair and other times, like tonight, we finished some really good chances. I also think that we could have finished some more. They dodged some bullets as well. It’s not as if we scored a couple of goals and then the game was over. I just think that we actually did what we needed to do. And then at the end, I think getting the fourth call was a really important aspect.
On Willy Agada’s start with the team…
Goal scorers can score goals in all different ways. I thought his second goal was excellent and it was his movement to get the defender to step with him as he went back to the ball and then he created the space underneath. An excellent finish for him to get on the end of that. And then I also thought that the ball that gets played into him and he lays it off to Thommy, holding off the defender, and the first-time finish from Thommy is world class. It’s like I said before, if you look at the two guys that we added in the summertime, it was the two positions that we have two guys that are out at the moment. Hopefully for the future, it also makes us incredibly strong going forward.
On the goal from Andreu Fontas…
I didn’t know he was going to start scoring every game, but it helps. I think he’s been opportunistic in the last couple of weeks, but Fontas has always proven that he’s very good on the attack. He’s good with the ball and also smart around the boxes. He took his chances well. For us to be able to score on a set piece, through the run of play the way we did tonight and on the counter – all of those things proved to the guys that they have the quality to do it. Now we have just got to do it consistently.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Erik Thommy
On the play of Willy Agada…
I think Willy is really important for our game because he creates space in the front. He keeps the ball and that makes for us a lot of solutions in the final third. It’s important for us. Today was a reward for us because the last few games we played well, but in the second half we had a lot of space for the other team and we sometimes we made it too easy for them. I think the second half for us was much better than the other games. We pushed forward. We created a lot of chances as well and, at the end, 4-1 was perfect for us. Willy is in a good shape and he helps us a lot and hopefully he stays healthy and keeps going and keeps scoring the next games.
On the team’s mentality in the second half…
I think we learned about the games from the last weeks because the results were not what we wanted. The coach told us in the second half that we should go a few meters in front and push forward and keep attacking, keep going for the fourth goal. I think we did it. But we have to say that John (Pulskamp) saved us twice, and that was really important for our game. At the end, it was 4-0. Of course, if they had scored it could be another game. We wanted the three points here. I think after 90 minutes, it was a good game for us.
Sporting Kansas City forward Willy Agada
On the importance of the team’s third goal…
I think we’re so excited. First of all, I’m excited for the team. Shout out for the boys. All the boys were working today. You can see how everybody is so hungry today to play and everybody know we did it. We deserve these points and I’m happy that everybody was working and that we did it. I’m excited for us.
On the play of Erik Thommy…
I think Thommy is an important player in this team, just ask everyone. We have such a great mentality. You can see him trying to work and trying to put us in the situation. That’s my job to keep the ball on the top and if I don’t have an option, to keep it. Thommy always gives me options. So it’s a good goal by him and I’m excited I’m the one gave him the assist.
On moving past missed opportunities to be successful…
It’s a game. That’s football for you. It’s moment by moment. When you have the chance, you get it. Even if it’s a goal, even if it’s not a goal. You just need to keep your head up and keep going. It doesn’t matter if it’s a goal or you missed it. It doesn’t matter. In that moment, it’s done. It will never come back again. You just need to keep your head strong and be professional and wait for the next one.
On the team golden boot race with Johnny Russell…
He’s a great leader in the team and we all respect him and we hope he keeps going. He’s the one that is pushing everyone, me and everyone in the team. He’s a great leader and I have great respect for him and I hope we keep scoring. Me or him, anybody in the team can score. The most important thing is team is winning. This is the most important thing.
On the assist from Ben Sweat…
Wow, a brilliant assist from Ben. It’s such a great connection. When I look at him, he just looked at me and he just put the ball where it’s so easy for me. Shout out to Ben. That was a great pass from him. It’s crazy. These guys, they’re just making me to be a star. They’re cooking always. I’m just eating. I’m so grateful to have amazing players like this in the team. They’re lovely. Everybody is just here about the team. We are not selfish in this team. You can see how I laid the ball to Thommy and I tried to give some balls to Russell. It works out. We play together.
On the support from the fans…
The fans are amazing. It’s all about love. It’s crazy. The love is crazy. I’m excited to have fans like this. Hopefully we keep winning games and putting smiles on their faces. The stadium is full always. It’s amazing. I’m excited to be in this family. I’m so excited to be here.
On if the team believes there is a shot at making the playoffs…
Why not? It’s a race. We keep pushing until the end. We have great belief that we will make the playoffs. Why not? We just need to keep our heads straight and take it game by game, just as we did this one. The next game is so important to us. It’s game by game and just keep our mentality straight.
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