Sporting Kansas City (9-13-8, 35 points) suffered a 3-0 defeat to Nashville SC (12-9-7, 43 points) on Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park. Fafa Picault, Hany Mukhtar and Jack Maher scored for the visitors as Sporting sustained a costly loss in the club’s push for the postseason.
Sitting marginally below the playoff line with four matches left in the regular season, Manager Peter Vermes’ side will look to bounce back Saturday when Houston Dynamo FC (12-10-7, 43 points) visits Kansas City for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff on Apple TV with tickets available at SeatGeek.
Participating in his league-record 700th MLS match as a player or coach, Vermes fielded an unchanged lineup from Saturday’s 1-0 road win at Minnesota United FC. Captain Johnny Russell and defender Andreu Fontas both hit notable milestones, logging their 150th and 100th starts in MLS competitions, respectively, while Daniel Salloi earned his 150th regular season appearance for the club.
A positive start for Sporting saw forward Alan Pulido threaten inside the first 10 minutes, but his left-footed curler off a feed from right back Jake Davis was corralled by Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis. A dozen minutes later, Russell lifted a shot over the crossbar following a lovely exchange involving Davis, Erik Thommy and Daniel Salloi.
Nashville drew first blood in the 29th minute. Left back Daniel Lovitz’s in-swinging corner kick was met by an umarked Picault, who snapped a header into the back of the net for his fifth MLS goal of the season and his second in his last three appearances at Children’s Mercy Park.
Sporting sought an injection of creativity at halftime and replaced Nemanja Radoja with midfield playmaker Gadi Kinda, who came off the bench to score the late winner on Saturday in Minnesota. The Israeli international made his presence felt on the ball as Sporting went close to equalizing in the 54th minute. Russell’s teasing free kick into the mixer went untouched by a slew of bodies but carried fractionally wide of the far post.
At the opposite end, Mukhtar showcased his MLS MVP credentials with a turf-trimming shot that Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia did well to palm away in the 49th minute. A quarter-hour later, Mukhtar’s lofted ball into the box was laid off by Alex Muyl to Sean Davis, whose first-time effort missed the mark by a slim margin.
Head coach Gary Smith’s men doubled their advantage in the 66th minute. After Sporting had cleared its lines off a Nashville set piece, Willis sent a booming ball over the top for center back Walker Zimmerman to chase. In an advanced position from the set piece situation seconds earlier, Zimmerman sent a driven cross into the six-yard area from the right channel. Fontas repelled the delivery only as far as Mukhtar, who hammered a shot inside the near post for his 15th MLS goal of the campaign.
After Russell nearly pulled a goal back for Sporting with an attempted cross that almost beat Willis at the near post, Nashville added a third off another set piece with Maher glancing a header into the corner of the net off Mukhtar’s pinpoint service.
2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 30
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 75 degrees and clear
Sporting Kansas City (9-13-8, 35 points)
Nashville SC (12-9-7, 43 points)
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Jake Davis, Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas (Robert Voloder 78'), Logan Ndenbe; Nemanja Radoja (Gadi Kinda 46'), Remi Walter, Erik Thommy (Felipe Gutierrez 75'); Johnny Russell (C) (Marinos Tzionis 75'), Alan Pulido (Willy Agada 72'), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Hernandez, Khiry Shelton
Nashville SC: Joe Willis; Shaq Moore, Walker Zimmerman (C) (Josh Bauer 70'), Jack Maher, Daniel Lovitz (Taylor Washington 81'); Sean Davis (Sam Surridge 81'), Dax McCarty, Anibal Godoy (Brian Anunga 69'); Alex Muyl; Hany Mukhtar, Fafa Picault (Jacob Shaffelburg 87')
Subs Not Used: Elliot Panicco, Luke Haakenson, Randall Leal, Ethan Zubak
NSH -- Fafa Picault 5 (Daniel Lovitz 4) 29'
NSH -- Hany Mukhtar 15 (unassisted) 66'
NSH -- Jack Maher 1 (Hany Mukhtar 9) 76'
NSH -- Alex Muyl (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 52'
NSH -- Taylor Washington (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 82'
NSH -- Shaq Moore (yellow card; time wasting) 91+
SKC -- Dany Rosero (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 94+
Shots on Goal
Referee: Victor Rivas
Assistant Referee: Kyle Atkins
Assistant Referee: Noah Kenyawani
Fourth Official: Armando Villarreal
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic
AVAR: Tom Supple