Sporting Kansas City (6-7-7, 25 points) secured a second straight shutout and second straight victory with a 3-0 road win over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-9-8, 20 points) on Saturday at BC Place in Canada.
Gerso Fernandes gave Sporting the lead in the first half and capped off the scoring with a goal in the 90th minute, in addition to assisting Felipe Gutierrez’s team-leading eighth goal of the season.
Tim Melia recorded a season-high six saves for the 58th win, breaking a tie with Jimmy Nielsen for the most by a goalkeeper in club history, and 43rd shutout of his MLS career – all coming with Sporting since joining the club in 2015.
Melia anchored a starting lineup on Saturday that was unchanged from Sporting’s 1-0 win against the Chicago Fire last weekend as Peter Vermes enjoyed the luxury of fielding the same starting lineup for back-to-back MLS matches for the first time during an injury-riddled 2019 season.
That meant the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath and Seth Sinovic once again started together, earning their fourth clean sheet in five regular season matches as a defensive unit.
Sporting controlled more than 60 percent of the possession in the first half and applied ample pressure before the breakthrough goal came in the 24th minute.
Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Zac MacMath did well to push away Graham Zusi’s curling free kick in the 13th minute and was well positioned to keep out Daniel Salloi’s shot five minutes later, but was finally beaten on a shot from Fernandes that deflected off the foot of Ali Adnan and was officially ruled an own goal.
With Sporting in search of a second and Vancouver pushing forward to equalize, both sides would create chances on either side of halftime.
Sporting came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet’s well-struck volley was re-directed by Salloi from close range only to end up straight at MacMath, while Melia made his best save of the night to turn away Inbeom Hwang’s free kick in the 48th minute and moments later watched 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair’s shot miss narrowly wide of the post.
As the game opened up, Fernandes nearly put his name on the scoresheet in the 52nd minute if not for a superb kick save from MacMath and then tallied an assist minutes afterward on a night in which he completed 37 of 38 passes, including 30 of 30 in the attacking half of the field.
Fernandes beat his defender and laid the ball off to Gutierrez on his left, leaving the rest to the Chilean international to take a single touch forward before unleashing a low blast from 25 yards out that bulged the back of the net.
Gutierrez now has eight goals on the campaign, which is the most of any midfielder in MLS and seventh most among all players, in addition to logging six chances created on Saturday, most by any Sporting player in a match this season.
Despite a close call when Yordy Reyna’s free kick rattled the post in the 76th minute, Sporting continued to threaten for a third goal over the course of the final 30 minutes.
MacMath was forced into tipping Ilie’s dipping effort over the bar and produced a one-on-one stop on Salloi before Fernandes put the exclamation point on an emphatic performance with a much-deserved goal in the 90th minute.
Second-half substitutes Johnny Russell and Krisztian Nemeth linked up as Nemeth cut the ball through a crowded goalmouth to find Fernandes at the back post for a first-time finish with his left foot.
The victory was Sporting’s 30th against Canadian opposition in the regular season and 12th on Canadian soil – both of which are most among all American MLS teams – but most importantly moves Sporting within four points of a playoff position currently held by seventh-place FC Dallas ahead of next Saturday’s clash between the two MLS charter clubs at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek.com and fans are encouraged to arrive early for the induction of Josh Wolff into the Sporting Legends hall of honor during the pre-game festivities.
- Story from Sporting KC