It is said that good things come in threes. Sporting Kansas City rode a tying goal, a friendly red card, and a volley for the books to three points Sunday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. However, visiting Nashville SC clearly came to be the aggressors as they forced Sporting to come from behind.
Sporting Kansas City (9-5-2) came into Sunday evening’s clash with Nashville SC (4-6-6) in 3rd place in MLS’s Western Conference looking to gain three points to win their third match in a row. That momentum – in the midst of a tight schedule of five games going Saturday/Sunday-Wednesday – would serve them well in this very different 2020 season with only seven regular season matches (in 3 ½ weeks) remaining before the playoffs.
Manager Peter Vermes stuck mostly with the lineup that has been getting it done, save for necessitated rotation due to injury or the fitness of his squad. Winger Gerso and right back Jaylin Lindsey were the changes from the side that defeated Chicago Fire 1-0 Wednesday.
Though Sporting forged an early attack out of a wonderful Gianluca Busio take down of a long ball at midfield, it was Nashville (languishing just out of playoff position in the East) who drew the most oohs and ahhs as they twice came close in the early going.
The brushes were Harbingers… Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman streaked down the near post channel to beat all to the ball and smash a header home for a 1-0 lead for the visitors in the 15th minute. The visitors would refuse to abstain as the half continued.
Sporting began to create consistent danger in the twenty-third minute. Johnny Russell received from Khiry Shelton on the inside right of Nashville’s box, but Russell’s shot was right at Nashville netminder Joe Willis. The last in a flurry of chances was a low steaming Gerso cross from the left of a feed from Russell that Lindsey could only watch scoot by at the back post.
Sporting lived dangerously again on a corner, from the left this time, in the 36th minute. Nashville’s Tah Anunga shielded near the spot after the ball settled. He turned a fired a shot that found its way to Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, who was able to knock it down with his body. However, the visitors’ Dax McCarty then shot from the doorstep, where Kansas City’s Amadou Dia thankfully cleared.
The story at the half was an odd one. Rarely has Sporting Kansas City trailed in shots taken at halftime of any match, let alone a home one. But there it was: Shots… Nashville 7 Sporting KC 6.
The injury bug continued to nag at Sporting Kansas City, short Graham Zusi from Wednesday, as Erik Hurtado replaced an ailing Shelton at striker in the 49th minute.
But the tide began to turn blue soon. Russell, operating on the right wing, beat Nashville’s Daniel Lovitz to the end line in the fifty-third minute. Russell then megged a cross through Dave Romney, and all Gerso had to do was get in the way of the ball to push it over the goal line for his second marker of the season to tie the match. Russell had now taken part in the last six goals at home: 4 goals and 2 assists.
A minute after, more Sporting aggression paid off. A Busio charge up the middle induced Alistair Johnston into a very late tackle on Busio’s ankle. Second yellow means red. Goodbye Mr. Johnston. A Hurtado hesitation and shot off the bar followed in the 59th minute.
The match predictably became Sporting’s attack searching for a crack in Nashville’s 10-man bunker. Sporting explored without joy until the 78th minute. Russell (who else?) played in Roger Espinoza, an earlier sub for Busio, whose left-footed flick went into a smothering Willis.
But magic was beckoning. Dia lofted a cross from the left wing for Hurtado lurking inside-right of Nashville’s box. Hurtado waited, leapt, and connected for a wow-inducing volley that dipped over a shrugging Willis and into the far netting for a 2-1 Kansas City lead.
Sporting dialed in and calmly played out the remaining minutes for their third triumph in a row, putting them past Portland Timbers (depending on their late match) and within one point of current West-leading Seattle Sounders. Sporting will now focus on heading to FC Dallas on Wednesday for an important conference tilt.