The introduction to MLS has been somewhat turbulent, Yohan Croizet searching for his place within Sporting Kansas City’s roster. He arrived here as a high-priced offseason acquisition, one designed to reinvigorate the offense, but the initial three months included just one goal.
On Saturday, Croizet produced his signature moment in a Sporting KC uniform.
A superbly-timed one.
Croizet blasted a strike from distance in the 89th minute, lifting Sporting KC to a 3-2 victory Saturday against FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup. The club will move on to the quarterfinals, awaiting the winner of Monday’s match between Houston and Minnesota.
“The feeling was amazing. When you score a goal like that, it’s crazy,” Croizet said. “It’s the best goal for my career.”
For now, it prolongs Sporting KC’s defense of its 2017 U.S. Open Cup championship. For awhile longer, it will stand as a premier goal for a player with 30 of them in his professional career — and one in need of enhancement to his confidence.
Croizet, 26, was a designated-player signing in the winter, thought to be a regular starter atop the midfield. But he has spent the first three months of his first MLS season in and out of the lineup as the coaching staff insisted the goals would come.
One came emphatically Saturday. After a ball plopped into the air, Croizet camped under it, awaiting its descent. Without letting it hit the turf, he directed a screamer into the upper netting.
Coming of a hamstring injury, Croizet subbed into the match only four minutes before the goal — and not exactly as planned. Forward Daniel Salloi, who scored twice earlier in the match, asked to be removed after feeling tightness in his side. Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes turned to his bench and whistled for Croizet.
“We’ve done the homework on him. He has the ability to score goals and be very dangerous in the attack,” Vermes said. “Tonight, that goal, I hope gives him the confidence that he needs because we have the confidence in him.
“Coming back from the injury and stepping in like that and scoring hopefully is a really, really good thing for him moving forward.”
Salloi scored twice for Sporting KC, sandwiched between a pair of FC Dallas goals, including a late one from Roland Lamah to even the game in the 77th minute.
For the second straight year, Sporting KC eliminated FC Dallas from the Open Cup tournament, both inside Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting KC outlasted FC Dallas 3-0 in last year’s quarterfinals, all three of those tallies arriving in extra time.
A year later, the two teams have separated themselves in the Western Conference, occupying the top two spots. Albeit in a departure from the MLS regular-season schedule, they offered a preview Saturday of what could define the race for the last half of the year.
Back and forth. FC Dallas led 1-0; Sporting KC led 2-1; and Croizet supplied the late game-winner for the 3-2 final.
Salloi altered the scoreboard twice. The first followed a sequence that unfolded like this: Bar. Post. Goal. The two central defenders connected with the woodwork — Emiliano Amor off the crossbar, and then Ike Opara off the post. After retaking possession, Graham Zusi flicked a pass to Opara, who headed the ball across the goal mouth. The ball appeared headed for the corner of the net, but Salloi ensured it crossed the line with a tap-in. Salloi apologized to Opara at halftime for swiping his goal.
The second was a bit higher degree of difficulty, following a switch from the wing to central forward.
“I’m trying things I’ve never really tried before — that all comes with confidence,” Salloi said. “I trust in my teammates, and they trust in me. It’s just rolling. It feels good.”
Sporting Kansas City 3, FC Dallas 2
DALLAS: Jesse Gonzalez, Reggie Cannon, Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, Maynor Figueroa, Kellyn Acosta (Jacori Hayes, 59th), Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo (Tesho Akindele, 71st), Roland Lamah, Michael Barrios (Ryan Hollingshead, 84th), Maximiliano Urruti.
KANSAS CITY: Adrián Zendejas, Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Emiliano Amor, Jaylin Lindsey, Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sánchez, Dániel Sallói (Yohan Croizet, 85th), Gerso Fernandez (Khiry Shelton, 75th), Diego Rubio (Johnny Russell, 65th), Wan Kuzain.
Dallas: 1, Gruezo (Barrios), 18th minute. 4, Roland Lamah, 77th minute.
Kansas City: 2, Sallói (Opara, Zusi), 43rd minute. 3, Sallói (Kuzain), 66th minute. 5, Croizet, 89th minute.
Shots on goal
Dallas: Lamah (argument), 20th; Barrios (not retreating), 37th; Hayes (unsporting behavior), 72nd; Ulloa (unsporting behavior), 74th.
Kansas City: Amor (unsporting behavior), 83rd.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Ramy Touchan.
Assistant referee: Kyle Atkins.
Assistant referee: Jeremy Kieso.
Fourth official: Jack Feldman.
Video assistamt referee: Richard Kaminsky.