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Sporting KC takes confidence from Open Cup win into critical stretch of MLS play

Club hopes Vujnovic, Tzionis build off 1st goals
Marinos Tzionis
Nikola Vujnović, Marcelo Silva
Posted at 3:22 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 16:22:19-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The dam finally burst Tuesday for Sporting Kansas City, which has scored only eight goals in 11 MLS regular-season matches this season.

Sporting KC had been shut out four times and managed more than one goal in a game once this season before notching three goals in the 98th minute or later during a 4-2 win against FC Dallas in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup round of 32 at Children’s Mercy Park.

“The amount of chances that we created in that second, that was probably the more reassuring boost to the confidence,” Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes said. “The icing on the cake was scoring the goals. The guys should feel really good because FC Dallas is a really good team. They defend well, they attack well and they’re an organized team. It’s definitely a confidence booster, and it should be.”

Striker Nikola Vujnovic was rewarded for his work rate, slotting home a misplay by FC Dallas’ back line for his first goal with the club in the 60th minute.

On the final play in second-half stoppage time, another newcomer, winger Marinos Tzionis, also opened his Sporting KC account.

He redirected a short corner from Remi Walter across the face of the goal and out of the reach of FC Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer for the equalizer to force extra time.

“I’m very happy for them,” winger Daniel Salloi said. “It’s always nice to see new players on the team score their first goals. As Niko said, the first one is always the most difficult one. I’m happy that they’ve done it and now they can go for the next one. But you’re in a much more relaxed state of mind when you’ve already scored their first goal.”

Vermes also hoped the goals would serve as a “huge, huge boost for them and hopefully give them confidence as they move forward.”

The team’s four-goal outburst matched the most since an Oct. 3, 2021, home win against the Houston Dynamo FC — a span of 20 games across all competitions.

“It’s always nice to get a win like that and, of course, a comeback win will always boost a team’s confidence,” Salloi said. “I hope we will carry it into the weekend because this will be a tough game.”

Whether the goal bonanza translates to more goals in MLS play remains to be seen, but Sporting KC (2-6-3) is entering a potentially critical stretch of the season for their playoff hopes.

Vermes’ club sits 12th in the MLS Western Conference standings with nine points from 11 games and plays several games in a row with teams battling a similar early-season funk.

“Every game is incredibly important,” Vermes said. “It’s important for us to get results, to get points however we can in all the upcoming games that we play in. We obviously have some catching up to do, so we have to fight and scrap for everything that we can get.”

Sporting KC’s next four MLS games — Saturday at the Portland Timbers, May 18 versus the Colorado Rapids, May 22 at the San Jose Earthquakes and May 28 against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC — are all against other conference foes currently sitting outside the top-seven playoff positions.

“Those teams and our team, obviously, you go into these games thinking you’re in the same spot and you have to get a win. If not these teams, then who?” Salloi said. “But at the same time, there’s no easy games. There’s no games that you’re expected to win. It’s tough anywhere.”

All four games can be seen on KSHB 41’s sister station 38 The Spot, the home for Sporting KC and Kansas City Current soccer.

The broadcast for Saturday’s game at Portland (2-3-6) starts at 9 p.m. with kickoff set for 9:08 p.m. from Providence Park.

Right back Graham Zusi (thigh) is questionable for the game while center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (facial injury/concussion) and midfielder Ozzie Cisneros (hamstring) are out along with Designated Players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda, who both underwent season-ending knee surgery this year.