Off thirteen days from an international break and off to a mediocre start in league play, Sporting Kansas City (1-1-1) needed a victory in hosting Montreal Impact (2-1) on Saturday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park. Enter a seemingly inspired and rejuvenated side. In a thoroughly dominating performance, Sporting Kansas City took no mercy on their generous French-Canadian visitors to the tune of a 7-1 win. Johnny Russell hit a brace, Kristian Nemeth a hat trick, and Felipe Gutierrez and Gianluca Busio scored single markers for the hosts as Gerso Fernandes terrorized the Impact defense throughout.
Peter Vermes, as expected, put out a first-choice lineup for Kansas City’s first league match since March 17 and in front of the Concacaf Champions League semi-final series with Liga Mx side Monterrey looming Thursday. However, the re-entry of previously injured center back Andreu Fontas into the 11 and the entry of newly-acquired Gideon Zelalem for the first time into the 18 were newsflashes.
Out of the Impact camp, the absences of the uber-talented playmaker Ignacio Piatti and starting center back Zakaria Diallo increased the challenge for the visitors. Yet, the Impact have done well as guests as this match marked their fourth league match on the road. Children’s Mercy Park and Sporting have not been kind, though, as Sporting owns a 4-1-2 advantage over Montreal in the last seven meetings.
Attacking verve was on display literally from the 1st minute as the Impact rushed into the box for a low ball from the left wing that bypassed two runners, with the third just a step off as the ball squirted across.
Sporting replied in kind the next minute as striker Kristzian Nemeth nodded a ball on for a box-central Gerso Fernandes. The speedy instigator got a piece of the ball to put it past Montreal netminder Evan Bush, but the left winger was rightly found to be offsides by VAR.
The attacking continued at a strong pace from end-to-end, entertaining the crowd enduring sub-40 temps with a bitter wind. A legal breakthrough would come soon. In the 10th minute, midfielder Roger Espinoza played for Nemeth at the top-center of Montreal’s box. Nemeth’s shot was blocked, and as he endeavored to claim the rebound, right winger Johnny Russell stepped his left foot into the ball and deposited it in the left netting, easily beating Bush for the Scot’s third goal on the season.
Gerso, undressing his defender all match, broke into the box again in the 24th minute. As Bush came out for an anticipated cross, Gerso turned towards goal trying to sneak the ball into the net. But Bush was wary and snuffed out the chance.
The 28th and 29th minutes brought more from a charged Sporting. Flooding the middle of the pitch with numbers resulting in schooled passes into space, the hosts came close twice: Gerso just missing at the left post with the tip of his boot one-on-one with Bush and Russell grazing the outside of the right post.
A pressure-relieving second goal came as Sporting kept surging forward. Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez lunged for a ball and played precisely for a central Gerso in the 43rd minute. The Guinea-Bissau native took an elegant first-touch to get past his marker and then played a heavy diagonal ball for Nemeth to his right. Nemeth motored over and sent the ball just out of the reach of a recovering defense for his fourth of the season and the two-goal lead.
Another double arose in extra time for the in-form hosts. Espinoza hit a perfectly placed ball over the top for Gerso outside-left of Montreal’s box. Off the bounce on the well-groomed pitch, Gerso played for a central-running Gutierrez. Adjusting his body in flight, Felipe touch-volleyed the excellent cross into the center of net to put the aggressors up three. The goal was the Chilean’s first of the 2019 campaign and Gerso’s second assist on the day.
The second half began as it the first finished. Kansas City played smartly out of a midfield mess in the 50th minute, ending with Espinoza playing wide to Russell. With space and one man to beat, the ginger winger teased to the right, cut to his preferred left, and calmly finished inside the far post to put Sporting up four.
Sporting swapped out midfielders in the 62nd minute as Gianluca Busio came in for Espinoza. Later, Yohan Croizet entered for Gerso, but not before Gerso was involved in yet another goal.
Left back Seth Sinovic received wide from the midfield in the 68th minute. With a clever ball into space, Sinovic fed for Gerso. Yet, the ball was batted around before Russell collected and blitzed for the end line. Spying Nemeth at the six, Russell played simply for the Hungarian who slotted easy for the brace and his fifth on the season.
But on this day, five was not enough and Sporting went six soon. Nemeth pressured insistently off a Sinovic entry ball into the box. The 16-year-old Busio poked the ball by two defenders on the right side of the box and finished smartly and authoritatively inside the near post in the 78th minute.
Ok. Well. Alright. On this day, six was not enough. Seven came in the 84th minute. Ilie played over the top for Nemeth, who, one-on-one with Bush, flinched twice and finished for the hat trick.
However, the bid for the largest margin of victory in MLS history fell in the dying minutes as Montreal finished a chance at the top of the box that Sporting should have done better with.
Sporting Kansas City will now turn their focus to Thursday’s massive tilt at Monterrey in the first leg of their two-game series for the right to be finalists in the region’s top club competition. Three days later, the next MLS match comes at league debutants FC Cincinnati.