Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal’s last order of business before the first postgame media scrum of his young Major League Soccer career was to inscribe his first piece of MLS memorabilia.
Kamal authenticated the match ball from his first career goal, which was the game-winner in Sporting Kansas City’s 4-1 victory over Minnesota United on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
Kamal, 19, said he doesn’t yet know where he’ll display the memento. He’ll have plenty of time to figure it out after becoming the second-youngest goal-scorer in club history, behind only Soony Saad, who scored on his 19th birthday in 2011.
Sunday's goal came in the 35th minute off a setup from Graham Zusi, who chipped a sliding defender and found Kamal open in front of the Minnesota net.
“I just wanted to make an impact positively. Peter (Vermes) has always been saying that I can do this, that I have confidence at this level,” Kamal said. “He said once I get in, I’ll score, and I did. It was nice. I saw Zusi get it down the line and I saw Daniel (Salloi) make a run, and I just wanted to get on top of the box in case anything came there, and it did. I got amazing contact and it went in.”
An injury to Yohan Croizet on Sunday meant that Kamal was an unexpected early substitution after making his MLS debut late in last week’s match against Columbus.
As it turned out, Kamal wasn’t the youngest person to appear for the home side on Sunday. Jaylin Lindsey, 18, made his MLS and Sporting KC debut in the 60th minute after Seth Sinovic left the game with an injury.
“Kuzain, we all see the potential in the kid... he steps in for this second game in a row, and not only has major minutes, but has the confidence to play at this level at 19,” Vermes said. “Then you throw Lindsey into the mix, and he goes into the side he doesn’t normally play on, and I thought he was tremendous.”
Vermes wasn’t pleased with his club’s effort in last week’s scoreless draw against Columbus, and didn’t hide his displeasure.
Sporting KC found what it was missing last week, particularly in the attacking third of the field. The four goals were the most it scored since a 6-0 win over Vancouver FC on April 20, a match where Sporting KC enjoyed a two-man advantage.
The offensive outburst also came with leading scorer Johnny Russell out of the lineup for the first time this season following a call-up to the Scottish national team.
Sporting KC was aggressive from the outset, and it didn’t take long for the high-energy attack to pay dividends. The home team posted a 25-8 advantage in total shots.
“The response was excellent. The first half was maybe the best first half of soccer that we played this year,” Vermes said. “We could’ve probably scored five goals in the first half easily. It’s great to see that the guys will respond that way.”
Salloi got Sporting KC on the board in the ninth minute with his fourth goal of the season. Yohan Croizet headed the ball down to Salloi’s bright orange cleats. Salloi took advantage of the space he was given to turn and fire a shot from the top of the 18-yard box that tucked inside the right post.
The lead didn’t last long. Minnesota United defender Tyrone Mears answered with a swerving rocket from 30 yards out to tie the game at 1-1 in the 12th minute.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia dove to his left, but only got a small piece of the ball as it sailed past him and crashed into the back of the net.
Kamal’s tally put Sporting KC ahead, and Cristian Lobato added an insurance marker in the 38th minute, converting a nifty feed from Roger Espinoza into his second goal of the season. Diego Rubio came on in the 78th minute and scored three minutes later.
Sporting KC (8-2-4) pushed its unbeaten streak to five games and won for the first time since May 9 at Atlanta United. It also reclaimed the top spot in the Western Conference, and is now two points clear of FC Dallas.
Sporting KC was without the services of forward Johnny Russell for the first time this season. Russell was called up to Scotland’s national team for Saturday’s friendly against Mexico.
Russell, who was the only player on the team not currently playing in Europe, earned a starting spot in the 1-0 loss. It was Russell’s fifth cap for Scotland, and his first since 2015.
Russell five goals for Sporting KC this season, tying him for the club lead with Felipe Gutierrez.
Matt Besler is one step closer to making more club history. Sunday marked Besler’s 239th career regular-season appearance for Sporting KC. He will tie club leader Davy Arnaud with his next appearance, which could come as early as next Saturday’s match at Portland.
Sunday’s announced attendance was 20,422.