Peter Vermes: "Those are big points for us"
The boos commenced as Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard jogged onto the Children’s Mercy Park field on Saturday. An hour before kickoff, he neared the Cauldron section, which greeted him with a vulgar chant. Howard mockingly covered his ears to block the noise, then applauded the effort.
The relationship bubbled here last year, Howard exchanging profanities with fans in an incident captured on an iPhone before engaging in a confrontation with another fan in the exit tunnel.
The return trip to Kansas City was considerably more tame. But it came with the same result.
Sporting KC defeated Colorado 1-0 inside Children’s Mercy Park, making an early Daniel Salloi goal stand.
The sparks were few, with the pace accepted by a Rapids team intent on sitting back defensively and providing little moving forward.
“Being able to grind out a win like that where you can score as we did, be at home and still get three points like we did against an in-conference team, those are big points, for sure,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said.
Sporting KC (6-2-2) has tallied 13 points in its past five home matches after an opening-night loss. The leeway in the Western Conference standings is four points.
But even with the security Salloi provided Sporting KC in the 16th minute, a defensive mishap offered a reminder of the one-goal margin. After Sporting KC failed to clear the ball, Colorado striker Dominique Badji found himself alone with Sporting KC keeper Tim Melia. Melia came off his line, and Badji sent the shot wide right. The replay showed Badji might have gotten away with a handball on the play anyway.
It didn’t matter. Melia recorded his fourth shutout in six matches, this one aided by Colorado’s lack of desire to penetrate the attacking third of the field. The Rapids placed only two shots on goal and held just 40.8 percent possession, despite trailing for nearly 80 minutes.
“We take pride in our defending, but we like to keep the ball — that’s the best way to defend the game,” midfielder Roger Espinoza said. “That’s the style we wanna play here.”
They paired it with the early breakthrough from Salloi. The goal fell to his right foot, punctuated by a slide across the grass in the south corner of the stadium. It was unassisted in technical terms but assisted by striker Khiry Shelton, who remains in search of his first goal of 2018.
Matt Besler lobbed a pass to Ike Opara, whose header found open space along the 6-yard box. Shelton met the ball with his head, and his shot deflected off the post, caught his foot on the rebound and deflected off the same post once more.
Salloi had the rebound covered. He has two goals and four assists this season, a spark in the final third after sitting on the bench in the opener. Vermes called Saturday perhaps the best outing of Salloi’s two years in Kansas City. Salloi also hit the post and narrowly missed a couple of other opportunities in the second half.
“It’s hard to break a defense like that, but we did a good job,” Salloi said.
“We really figured it out in the second half, how to break their lines. We created a lot of chances. But we should’ve scored more goals.”
Sporting Kansas City 1, Rapids 0
COLORADO: Tim Howard, Deklan Wynne, Danny Wilson, Tommy Smith, Kip Colvey (Dillon Serna, 79th), Sam Nicholson (Yannick Boli, 67th), Jack Price, Enzo Martinez, Édgar Castillo, Jack McBean (Joe Mason, 45th), Dominique Badji.
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia, Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Cristian Lobato (Yohan Croizet, 71st), Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sánchez, Jimmy Medranda (Seth Sinovic, 81st), Johnny Russell (Gerso Fernandes, 88th), Khiry Shelton, Dániel Sallói.
Kansas City: 1, Sallói 2 (unassisted), 16th minute.
Shots on goal
Colorado: McBean (unsporting behavior), 13th; Castillo (dissent), 52nd; Badji (unsporting behavior), 89th.
Kansas City: Opara (unsporting behavior), 10th.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Armando Villarreal. Assistant referees: Peter Balciunas, Felisha Mariscal. Fourth official: Fotis Bazakos. Video assistant referee: Kevin Terry Jr.