Gerso scored a sensational hat-trick on Wednesday to power first-place Sporting Kansas City to an emphatic 3-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
The 26-year-old Bissau-Guinean was the first Kansas City player to record an MLS hat-trick since 2010, tallying three times in a rampant second-half performance as Sporting KC (6-2-4, 22 points) pushed its club-record home unbeaten streak to 15 regular season matches — now the longest active run in Major League Soccer – at the expense of the reigning MLS Cup champion Sounders (2-5-4, 10 points).
Goalkeeper Tim Melia produced five saves en route to his league-leading seventh shutout of the season and his fifth in five career regular season appearances against the Sounders, helping Sporting Kansas City move to the summit of the Western Conference table while keeping Seattle stuck in ninth place.
Wednesday’s Retro Night contest was a rematch of the 2016 Western Conference Knockout Round at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, which the Sounders narrowly edged by a 1-0 scoreline. Sporting Kansas City exorcised demons of last October’s playoff defeat by extending its regular season unbeaten streak against Seattle to six matches (4-0-2) since the start of 2015.
Manager Peter Vermes made a single change to the Sporting Kansas City lineup as forward Dom Dwyer returned from a one-game suspension to replace Latif Blessing, the 20-year-old Ghanaian who scored both goals in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC. Ike Opara notably earned his 50th regular season start for the club, joining captain Matt Besler in central defense to anchor a full-strength backline that also included fullbacks Seth Sinovic and Graham Zusi.
An ultimately resounding win saw the hosts begin slowly, as Sporting Kansas City failed to register a single shot attempt in the first half for the first time in the club’s regular season history. U.S. international Jordan Morris created the game’s first chance after seven minutes, but his teasing cross was just beyond the reach of target forward Will Bruin. Five minutes later, Seattle’s playmaking talisman Nicolas Lodeiro broke free down the right flank and struck low to force Melia into his first save of the evening.
Melia made two pivotal saves on the stroke of halftime, first thwarting Alvaro Fernandez with an outstretched foot after the Seattle midfielder had raced behind the defense on a breakaway. On the final play before intermission, Melia dove left at full extension to push Roldan’s cleanly struck, long-range blast marginally wide of the post.
Vermes’ men flipped the script entirely once action resumed after the break, converting their two-thirds of possession into chance-creating dominance. Espinoza’s speculative effort in the 53rd minute was Sporting KC’s first of 12 shots during a second-half deluge, which would translate into three goals from the club’s first-year Designated Player. Two minutes later, Opara’s strong header off Benny Feilhaber’s corner kick was finger-tipped over the crossbar by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Gerso bagged his first in the 56th minute when Feilhaber’s shallow corner kick was scuffed clear by Roldan. The winger was quick to react and rifled a left-footed strike that deflected through traffic and nestled just inside the near post, leaving Frei stranded and igniting rapturous celebrations inside the stadium.
Sporting Kansas City needed just two minutes to double the lead. Jimmy Medranda beat Oniel Fisher to a loose ball along the right sideline and swung a curling cross into the penalty area that Gerso struck with the outside of his left boot. The ball pinged off the right post and caromed off Seattle defender Chad Marshall before rolling kindly back into the path of Gerso, who took a composed touch before slotting past Frei to notch his brace.
A rare second-half foray from Seattle required Melia to sprawl left and save a low drive from Fernandez, not long before Gerso lashed high from the top of the box in the 67th minute.
History would be made in the 69th minute as a brilliant, flowing move from Sporting Kansas City culminated in the seventh MLS hat-trick in the club’s 22-year history. Gerso broke down the left side and played centrally to Espinoza, who picked out Feilhaber 30 yards from goal. Zusi marauded into the box on the overlap, receiving a pass from Feilhaber and cutting the ball back close to the right endline. Gerso had timed his run perfectly and hammered a right-footed effort high into the net from 12 yards, becoming the sixth player to score an MLS hat-trick in a Kansas City uniform. Feilhaber also reached a special milestone on the scoring play, picking up his 50th career assist in the MLS regular season.
Seattle’s frustrations were compounded in the 76th minute when Morris’ strike was overturned for offside. The visitors again almost salvaged a consolation goal in the dying embers of the match, but Seyi Adekoya’s header off Roldan’s lofted ball over the top was straight at Melia.
Sporting Kansas City will have just two days’ rest before returning to the field Saturday, as Vermes’ men travel north of the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-5-1, 13 points) at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 12 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 20,139 (93rd straight sellout)
Weather: 77 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (6-2-4, 22 points)||0||3||3|
|Seattle Sounders FC (2-5-4, 10 points)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Benny Feilhaber (Daniel Salloi 89); Gerso (Latif Blessing 83), Dom Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda (Soni Mustivar 79)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Cameron Porter
Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei; Jordy Delem, Chad Marshall, Tony Alfaro, Oniel Fisher (Brad Evans 78); Alvaro Fernandez, Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson (Harry Shipp 72), Jordan Morris (Seyi Adekoya 77); Nicolas Lodeiro (C), Will Bruin
Subs Not Used: Tyler Miller, Nouhou Tolo, Zach Mathers, Clint Dempsey
|Shots on Goal||6||5|
SEA -- Jordy Delem (caution; unsporting behavior) 3
SEA -- Tony Alfaro (caution; unsporting behavior) 85
SKC -- Gerso 3 (unassisted) 56
SKC -- Gerso 4 (unassisted) 58
SKC -- Gerso 5 (Graham Zusi 3, Benny Feilhaber 3) 69
Referee: Ted Unkel
Assistant Referee: Joe Fletcher
Assistant Referee: Adam Wienckowski
Fourth Official: Sorin Stoica