By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1
Sporting KC vs. Colorado Rapids
Sporting Kansas City bounced back from their loss to Minnesota in a chaotic 3-2 win over the nine-man Colorado Rapids for the second round of the MLS is Back Tournament. Goals from Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido, and Graham Zusi put SKC back into contention for a top-two finish in Group D.
With goalkeeper Tim Melia serving a red card suspension, Richard Sanchez made his first start with the club. The 26-year-old, Mission Hills native was called into action early to deny Colorado midfielder Kellyn Acosta’s long-range effort. Soon after, Acosta took advantage of Sporting KC’s poor defending to get the Rapids on the scoreboard in the 6th minute.
In spite of having a rough start, Sporting KC logged in seven total shots and 54.8% possession at the half before the tides took a very dramatic turn. In the 65th minute, Khiry Shelton fired a ridiculous volley into the corner – marking his third goal in as many appearances – to level the match.
The beginning of the end for the Colorado Rapids came in the 61st minute as Danny Wilson was shown a caution for taking down Sporting’s Shelton, preventing an obvious goalscoring opportunity. However, the ruling was changed to a red card after the play was sent to VAR for review.
VAR was on Kansas City’s side again in the 72nd minute after Graham Zusi’s attempt on the right edge of the box ricocheted off Colorado forward Diego Rubio – former SKC striker – and skipped wide of the target. But VAR determined that a handball had occurred and awarded Sporting KC a penalty kick.
Alan Pulido successfully converted the shot by slotting the ball low into the left corner past Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough to put Sporting in the lead.
The 29-year-old Mexican striker has three goals and two assists in his debut MLS season and is the first Sporting KC player ever to record a goal or an assist in his first four regular-season appearances for the club.
Moments later, as tensions rose Colorado’s roster suffered another blow as midfielder Jack Price was shown a straight card for violent conduct. Price’s ejection from the match brought the Rapids down to nine men.
Jonathan Lewis was able to equalize for the Rapids in the 84th minute despite the numerical disadvantage. Kei Kamara dismantled his former team’s backline to send the pass to the 23-year-old forward who then bent it low into the far post.
With twelve minutes of stoppage time on the clock, Sporting’s Zusi netted the dramatic winner in the 91st minute. The low drive on the edge of the box deflected off Colorado’s Sam Vines and Yarbrough following a crazy scramble in a crowded penalty area. It was Zusi’s first goal since 2018.
The action continues for Sporting KC on Wednesday, July 22 as they face Real Salt Lake in the group stage finale. The Rapids will face Minnesota United the same evening.
Featured Image: MLS (Devin L’Amoreaux and Jared Martinez)
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