KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Michael Salazar’s goal early in the second half gave Memphis 901 FC a 2-1 victory against Sporting Kansas City II on Sunday evening at Children’s Mercy Park as the visitors moved into the playoff positions in the USL Championship’s Central Division with their third away win of the season.
Looking to move out of last place in the Central Division, Sporting took control of possession in the early going and almost grabbed an early goal in the sixth minute as Enoch Mushagalusa controlled a pass upfield by Kaveh Rad and shot just wide of the left post from the edge of the penalty area. Memphis also created an early chance as Kyle Murphy broke into space on the right and picked out a low ball into the penalty area for a trailing Dre Fortune, whose curled shot went just over the top-right corner of the net.
SKC II had another early opportunity as Wilson Harris stole possession in the attacking half but sent his finish too close to Memphis goalkeeper Kyle Morton to truly test him. In the 12th minute, though, Murphy put the visitors ahead as he broke onto a ball up the left touchline by Andre Reynolds III on a counterattack and drove forward, outpacing the defense to move into the left side of the penalty area before slotting home a finish into the bottom-right corner of the net.
The hosts had a chance to hit back in the 20th minute as Jamil Roberts beat his defender on the right and delivered a cross that Harris couldn’t quite direct on target, sending his header over the crossbar, but in the 26th minute Mushagalusa was brought down as he cut centrally inside the penalty area to give Sporting a chance from the spot. Harris converted as he drove a shot just to the right of center after Morton had gone to the left side.
The game settled for a spell after Sporting leveled, but five minutes before halftime Mushagalusa threatened as he received possession moving toward the top of the penalty area and then created space for a left-footed shot that Morton parried before his defense cleared.
Memphis regained the lead three minutes into the second half, however, as Mark Segbers was left with space to deliver an angled ball from the right to the back post where Michael Salazar put home a downward header inside the left upright. Salazar then set up Murphy for another chance three minutes later as the forward drove a shot from the right side of the penalty area that SKC II’s John Pulskamp had to dive to keep out, and Pulskamp came up with another good stop to deny Salazar, who controlled a deflected cross beautifully in the left side of the penalty area before having his shot turned away.
Sporting tried to work back onto level terms, and Rojay Smith sent a curling shot just wide of the right post midway through the second half. Smith then had a pair of efforts with 15 minutes to go, the first blocked by Segbers and the second from a narrower angle blocked away by Morton. Off the ensuing corner, Alijaz Dzankic tried to direct the near-post delivery from the left on target but flicked his header over.
Murphy looked for an insurance goal late on for the visitors, and almost found one a minute later as a flicked header allowed him to control and move in on goal only for Pulskamp to make an outstanding denial as Murphy tried to go around the goalkeeper to finish. With nine minutes to go a turnover offered Murphy another chance to shoot from the right side of the penalty area that Pulskamp parried away for a throw-in, and the goalkeeper came up with another outstanding one-on-one stop to deny Laurent Kissiedou on another counter with five minutes to go.
The visitors wouldn’t pay for their missed opportunities, however, as while SKC II pushed to try and find a late equalizer Memphis’ defense remained firm to see out the remaining time and move the club’s undefeated streak to five games.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Mark Segbers, Memphis 901 FC – Segbers produced a beautiful delivery to set up Michael Salazar’s winner as part of a solid all-around performance that saw him complete 28 of 30 passes, and win both 6 of 6 duels and 3 of 4 tackles.
MEM – Kyle Murphy (Andre Reynolds III) 12’
SKC – Wilson Harris (Penalty Kick) 25’
MEM – Michael Salazar (Mark Segbers) 48’