By Sam Kovzan – SportingKC.com
Newcomers Willy Agada and Erik Thommy paced Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5, 23 points) to a resounding 4-2 victory over the LA Galaxy (9-11-3, 30 points) on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
In a pulsating affair between longtime MLS foes, Agada bagged his first pair of MLS goals near halftime after Thommy opened his league scoring account with an early stunner to set the tone for Sporting’s dominant performance. The Galaxy managed to cut their three-goal deficit to 3-2 when Mexican star Chicharito Hernandez scored a late brace of his own, but Sporting forward Daniel Salloi—who assisted goals to Thommy and Agada earlier in the game—sealed all three points with an outstanding strike deep into second-half stoppage time.
Saturday’s thrilling battle marked the first time Sporting has scored four goals in a match since September 2021 and extended the club’s head-to-head winning streak against LA to three games, coming on the heels of two wins over the Galaxy in 2021.
With a three-match homestand in the rearview mirror, Sporting will resume their regular season campaign next Saturday, Aug. 13, by visiting Supporters’ Shield contenders Austin FC (13-5-6, 45 points) at Q2 Stadium in the Texas capital. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.
On a night that Sporting Kansas City honored military personnel with the fifth annual Sporting Salutes match, Salloi hit a major milestone by making his 100th career regular season start. He accounted for one of four lineup changes from last weekend’s home loss to Austin FC as Thommy and veterans Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi also entered the fray. Notable absentees included Cam Duke, who served a one-game red card suspension, and the injured trio of goalkeeper Tim Melia, defender Logan Ndenbe and forward Khiry Shelton.
Thommy needed 10 minutes to open his MLS account in glorious fashion, rounding off an incisive attack with a sublime finish that brought supporters to their feet. Agada did well to hold up possession amidst traffic and spread it wide to Salloi on the right flank. He quickly played to the nearby Espinoza, who looped a clever service into the penalty area for the on-running Thommy. The German midfielder made no mistake from there, letting the ball glide over his shoulder and settling it with his chest before smashing a first-time volley past LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond for Sporting’s first MLS home goal since May 18.
With momentum on their side, Sporting probed once more in the 20th minute. Salloi was afforded more space on the right side and whipped in a low cross that evaded a tightly marked Agada but reached captain Johnny Russell, whose cutback found left back Ben Sweat 15 yards from goal. Sweat took a touch a dragged a hurried shot wide of the target.
The hosts spurned a major opportunity to double their advantage in the 25th minute. Center back Andreu Fontas had advanced into an attacking position and unleashed a strike from long range that LA defender Derrick Williams hand-balled inside the box. Referee Michael Radchuk immediately pointed to the penalty spot, much to the delight of Sporting, but Russell’s ensuing spot kick was saved as Bond dove left to smother the attempt.
Agada was next to notch his first MLS goal shortly before halftime, although it came under bizarre circumstances. Espinoza made a piercing run in behind the Galaxy defense and fizzed a low delivery across the six-yard area for Agada. The jaw-dropping sequence that followed saw Bond deny Agada three times from close range, including two saves on the rebound to extinguish the danger. VAR took a second look, however, and Agada’s second attempt with his left foot was deemed to have crossed the goal line before Bond could cast it aside, giving the 22-year-old his maiden goal in a Sporting uniform.
Espinoza was on the receiving end of another wonderfully orchestrated chance a few moments later, latching onto Russell’s delectable cross-field pass and forcing a save from Bond at the near post.
There was no doubting Agada’s second goal of the evening, which came on the cusp of intermission. Salloi chased a long ball over the top from Zusi and curled in a low cross for Agada, whose emphatic close-range belter rippled the roof of the net and ignited zealous celebrations inside the stadium. It marked the first time since last September that Sporting had scored three goals in the first half of an MLS match and gave the club its first three-goal league game of 2022.
Midway through the second half, Agada went agonizingly close to recording the club’s first hat trick in over three years. Remi Walter intercepted a stray pass in the middle third of the field and sprayed a through ball into the path of Agada, who had raced in behind with only Bond to beat. He coolly rounded the LA keeper and pulled the trigger from a tight angle on the right side of the box, but Galaxy defender Sega Coulibaly had retreated to make the crucial goal line clearance.
The unplayable Agada asked further questions of LA’s backline in the 79th minute, chasing a brilliant Walter long ball and squaring up his defender before slipping a pass into the path of Salloi, but the Hungarian was unable to get off a clean shot and instead Walter ended up seeing his low drive saved by Bond.
The visitors grabbed a goal back in the 83rd minute when Hernandez swiveled and finished from the left side of the six-yard area. He was initially flagged offside on the play, but VAR prompted Radchuk to take a second look and the goal was awarded.
Hernandez doubled his tally in the second minute of stoppage time, burying a penalty kick into the top right corner after Sporting substitute Uri Rosell was whistled for a handball infraction inside the box. The goal reduced Sporting’s lead to 3-2 and set up a nervy final few minutes as the hosts sternly defended their slender edge.
Committing numbers forward in search of a late equalizer, the Galaxy were exposed in the 94th minute when Salloi was set free and curled a 20-yard shot inches over the crossbar, but he would not miss again seconds later. The 26-year-old winger punctuated his excellent performance by racing onto Julian Araujo’s stray back pass and poking a strike past Bond from a near-impossible angle along the endline. It was his seventh goal of the season in all competitions, one shy of Russell’s team lead, and his 46th career goal since signing for the club as a teenager in 2016.