Atlanta United FC 0, Sporting Kansas City 2 | 2018 MLS Match Recap
A 2nd half goal by Daniel Salloi – in a match transformed by a Brad Guzan red card — was enough to put Sporting Kansas City over Atlanta United FC in a Wednesday night conference leaders' clash at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A late Gerso Fernandes goal provided the final 2-0 margin.
Atlanta dominated much of the first half, and even looked to go up a 6th-minute Josef Martinez goal that was overturned on Video Review. But in the 34th minute, the tenor of the game changed when SKC's Khiry Shelton, sprung past the ATL backline with a well-placed pass, was met with a Brad Guzan slide-tackle that earned the veteran goalkeeper a red card.
That brought on rookie goalkeeper Paul Christensen - the 70th player selected in the 2018 MLS Superdraft - to hold off the vistors' offense. He held them at bay until midway through the 2nd half, when Salloi broke through the Atlanta defense to score. Despite two mirror-image Kevin Kratz free kicks in the 83rd and 86th minutes — both expertly saved by Tim Melia – Gerso found his insurance goal a moment after Kratz's second attempt, and the Five Stripes couldn't find their way onto the scoreboard.
- THE BIG PICTURE: In what could be an 2018 MLS Cup preview, the West leaders kept their strong early season start going, and vaulted over the hosts to its new position atop the Supporters' Shield standings. SKC now has 11 days before its next match, whereas Atlanta has to prepare for a Sunday showdown against its Orlando City SC rivals in the Land of Purple.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Guzan's choice to tackle Shelton was at least fortunate in that it happened outside the box, only putting his sub on the hook for a free kick (rather than a PK attempt) in the first moment of his MLS debut. But the red card forced Atlanta to take a key offensive chess piece off the board in Hector Villalba, and gave SKC a man advantage they eventually made good on.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Though Melia's late airborne heroics deprived the Atlanta faithful of Kratz Magic, and preserved the first regular-season shutout against Atlanta United at the Benz, it was Ike Opara who set the defensive tone with multiple stops, containing a particularly lively Martinez throughout the match.