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Sporting Kansas City treat home crowd to holiday-weekend thumping of Portland Timbers

Missing two key players and facing an early deficit, Sporting Kansas City flipped the script on the Portland Timbers Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting KC got goals from Erik Thommy (33rd minute), Daniel Salloi (66th), and Felipe Hernandez (third minute of stoppage time) — plus an own-goal from Portland in the 68th minute — to hammer the Timbers 4-1.

Suffice to say that Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes was pleased with the outcome.

“We’re deserving of the result based on the way that we played,” he said, “the movement of the players, their penetrating runs, their desire to get in the box, and then their vision on the field.”

Sporting KC (3-8-4, 12th in MLS’ Western Conference) played without captain Johnny Russell and Remi Walter — both were late scratches, with a hamstring injury and back spasms, respectively. Walter’s injury brought to an end the Frenchman’s run of 56 consecutive MLS starts.

In weeks past, such absences would’ve been glaring. But thanks to Sporting’s general good health at the moment, the hosts were able to manage that situation and get a result.

Salloi was glad to see his teammates step up.

“We have to continue (that), because there’s going to be injuries,” he said. “You don’t want to have them, but people have got to step up. And if you work as a team, as we did today, then we’ll be fine.”

Portland (4-4-7, ninth in the West) opened the scoring just seven minutes in. A long throw bounced around in the box and fell at the feet of Frank Boli, whose shot got past KC keeper Kendall McIntosh.

But Thommy channeled his inner Russell to bring Sporting KC level before halftime. He picked up the ball near the corner flag and dribbled a circle around the Timbers before unleashing a powerful left-footed shot into the far corner.

That goal seemed to awaken Sporting KC from its mid-afternoon slumber. And in the second half they came out with a more direct approach.

“We pretty much needed that,” Salloi said. “I think the game was very slow in the first half and that was good pick-me-up.”

Kansas City put in off three more goals — a tap-in from Salloi, an own-goal thanks to the hustle of Alan Pulido and Hernandez’s first goal of the season in stoppage time.

Improved direct play resulted in Salloi’s game-winning goal in the 66th minute. The first pass was an excellent ball from Tim Leibold to Graham Zusi. The second was a well-placed cross from Zusi to Salloi for an easy tap-in.

“You don’t often seen an outside-back to outside-back ball into the box,” Zusi said, “but it was there and it was a great ball by him. Daniel made a really good run into that space and finished it off.”

The goal was Salloi’s 14th winner, most in club history. He said that record means a lot to him and went on to share a story from after Sporting’s 2017 U.S. Open Cup final victory.

“I remember Z (Zoran Savić), our assistant coach, told my dad that it takes a clutch player to score game-winning goals and it’s a big part of someone’s career,” Salloi said. “I kept that with me, and I think that it’s very important to go for those goals, because those are the ones that help the team a lot.”

Sporting KC returns to action at Children’s Mercy Park Wednesday night, taking on FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m.