Sporting takes 1-0 road win at Columbus

Sporting Kansas City (4-5-7, 8th place) earned the team’s first road win of the season on Sunday with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC (5-10-2, 10th place) at MAPFRE Stadium in Ohio.

The victory moves Sporting into a share of eighth place in the Western Conference standings, one point back of a playoff position currently held by rivals Real Salt Lake ahead of next week’s showdown between the two clubs.

Felipe Gutierrez scored the game’s only goal in the 48th minute, on a gem of an assist from fellow forward Gerso Fernandes, and goalkeeper Tim Melia made four saves to preserve the shutout.

Gutierrez, who scored twice in a 2-2 draw at Toronto in Sporting’s last MLS match, now has seven goals on the season, setting up a three-way tie for the team lead with Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell.

Together, the trio make Sporting KC the only team in MLS to have three players with seven goals this season. In addition, this marks the first time in club history to have three players with seven goals before the end of June.

After a first half that featured no goals, but plenty of close chances – including an early penalty shout for Sporting, two strong saves from Melia to deny Hector Jimenez and Harrison Afful, as well as a handful of near misses from the two sides – Sporting secured the full three points thanks to a dominant second half performance.

Just minutes after the halftime break, Sporting produced the decisive breakthrough goal thanks to the hustle – and skill – of Fernandes. The fleet-footed winger did well to keep the ball from crossing the endline then slipped the ball between the legs of Luis Argudo with his very next touch before finally delivering a cross onto the head of Gutierrez to re-direct into the back of the net from three yards out.

The Sporting Kansas City defense, boosted on the night by the return of captain Matt Besler, would do the rest, allowing only two shots in the second half – both of which were superbly saved by Melia less than a minute apart. The former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year first thwarted Robinho in the 62nd minute then dove quickly to his left to keep out a well-struck half volley from David Guzman moments later.

In addition to providing the game-winning assist, Fernandes also provided Sporting with a man advantage for the final 15 minutes after he was brought down on a breakaway just outside the penalty area in the 74th minute. Referee Allen Chapman showed Afful a straight red card for denying the goal scoring opportunity and Sporting refused to let the lead slip away after suffering that fate in each of the team’s previous two MLS matches.

Sunday’s victory improves Sporting to 7-1-2 in the past 10 MLS matches against Columbus dating back to 2013 and an impressive 4-1-2 in the team’s last seven games at MAPFRE Stadium.

Sporting Kansas City will next head to Real Salt Lake to close out the team’s five-game road trip in the month of June. The 2013 MLS Cup rematch will kick off at 9 p.m. on Saturday live on FOX Sports Kansas City.

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