Cameron Porter, Nansel Selbol and Connor Hallisey scored their first Sporting Kansas City goals on Wednesday to spark a 3-1 comeback victory over Central FC in the 2016-17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
Porter restored parity in the 49th minute — cancelling out Jem Gordon’s first-half opener — before Sporting Kansas City Academy product Selbol decided the match in the 55th minute with a superb strike on his senior team debut. Hallisey added a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time to draw the curtains on a comfortable evening at Children’s Mercy Park.
Despite the win, Sporting Kansas City's Champions League run comes to an end after finishing second in Group C behind Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who will advance to next year's knockout rounds with seven other first-place finishers from the group stage.
With a pivotal MLS regular season finale beckoning this weekend, Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes made wholesale changes to his lineup from Sunday's 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake. Four players earned their Sporting Kansas City debuts, namely September signing Benji Joya and Swope Park Rangers trio Tomas Granitto, Alex Molano and Selbol, who signed short-term loan agreements earlier this week.
Molano created the first opportunity of the night after just six minutes, squeezing a through ball to Porter on the right side of the box. The 23-year-old forward fired low and on frame, but Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams was equal to it.
Three minutes later, Nuno Coelho went agonizingly close to scoring his first goal since the opening day of the 2016 MLS season. The Portuguese center back latched onto Molano’s looping free kick and planted a header that bounced off the post and back into the six-yard area. Hallisey’s rebound effort from point-blank range was cleared off the line, much to the chagrin of the home supporters.
Hallisey asked further questions of the Central defense in the 34th minute, cutting into the middle from the right wing and teeing up a Selbol strike that lacked direction to beat Williams. The Sharks’ goalkeeper thwarted Hallisey shortly thereafter, advancing off his line to smother a shot from a tight angle.
Central FC went ahead in the 43rd minute, firmly against the run of play. Sean De Silva held the ball on the left edge of the box and fed the on-running Jem Gordon, who slotted low past Alec Kann to give the Sharks a shock lead.
Sporting Kansas City’s dominance paid dividends four minutes after the restart. Granitto’s perfectly weighted ball over the top was chested down inside the box by Porter, who struck low across the goalkeeper and into the left corner for his second career goal in the CONCACAF Champions League. Granitto tallied an assist on his Sporting KC debut, his first since joining the Swope Park Rangers at the beginning of 2016.
Selbol translated Sporting Kansas City’s newfound momentum into a brilliant go-ahead goal in the 55th minute. The 19-year-old settled a square pass from Hallisey, took a touch to the middle and rifled low into the right corner with lethal precision from 20 yards.
High on confidence, Selbol almost bagged a stunning second goal four minutes later. His cleanly hit volley from an Ever Alvarado cross beat Williams but struck the post, drawing a collective gasp from the 11,367 in attendance. Selbol was denied by the woodwork a second time in the 77th minute, side-footing between a defender’s legs and onto the face of the right upright.
Hallisey added gloss to the result with an expertly taken penalty kick in the 91st minute after Porter was chopped down inside the box.
Sporting Kansas City: 25. Alec Kann; 24. Ever Alvarado, 12. Nuno Coelho, 3. Ike Opara (C), 94. Jimmy Medranda; 13. Benji Joya, 44. Tomas Granitto (16. Lawrence Olum 70), 92. Alex Molano; 22. Connor Hallisey, 39. Cameron Porter, 31. Nansel Selbol
Subs Not Used: 1. Jon Kempin, 4. Kevin Ellis, 17. Saad Abdul-Salaam, 23. Emmanuel Appiah, 77. Tyler Pasher
Central FC: 21. Jan-Michael Williams; 15. Kaydion Gabriel (11. Darren Mitchell 59), 5. Keston George, 4. Andre Ettienne, 24. Kevon Villaroel; 10. Keron Cummings (99. Marcus Joseph 71), 6. Leston Paul, 19. Nathaniel Garcia, 8. Sean De Silva (7. Jason Marcano 78); 26. Mickaeel Jem Gordon, 17. Johan Peltier
Subs Not Used: 1. Javon Sample
CFC -- Jem Gordon 1 (Sean De Silva 1) 43
SKC -- Cameron Porter 1 (Tomas Granitto 1) 49
SKC -- Nansel Selbol 1 (Connor Hallisey 1) 55
SKC -- Connor Hallisey 1 (penalty kick) 91+