Sporting Kansas City used a comprehensive 3-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night to move within a point of first place in the Western Conference.
New England (10-14-5, 35 points) grabbed an early lead through Teal Bunbury, but Sporting Kansas City (11-6-11, 44 points) responded with three consecutive goals at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park — one from Gerso and two from Diego Rubio — to extend their club-record home unbeaten run to 23 regular season matches, tied for the third-longest such streak in MLS history. The Revolution, meanwhile, saw their road winless drought reach 17 games dating back to last September.
With a vital league win under their belts, Sporting Kansas City will now turn their attention to Wednesday’s 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final against the New York Red Bulls at Children’s Mercy Park, slated for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Manager Peter Vermes’ men are seeking their third Open Cup title since 2012 and the club’s fourth overall, while the Red Bulls will be playing for their first Open Cup crown.
Despite a crucial fixture beckoning on Wednesday, Vermes fielded a strong lineup against his Eastern Conference counterparts. He made just three changes to a side that drew Columbus Crew SC 1-1 last weekend, with Jimmy Medranda replacing suspended midfielder Roger Espinoza and forwards Latif Blessing and Gerso stepping in for Cristian Lobato and Daniel Salloi, respectively.
Saturday proved to be a comfortable evening for the hosts, but not before they suffered a setback after only four minutes. Teal Bunbury’s deflected volley from the right side of the box looped above goalkeeper Tim Melia’s head and nestled into the back of the net, giving New England the earliest MLS goal of any Sporting KC opponent in 2017. Bunbury’s strike was his third career goal against his former club and his seventh since the start of July.
Another former Sporting KC forward completely changed the complexion of the match in the 11th minute. Krisztian Nemeth, visiting Children’s Mercy Park for the first time as an opponent, elbowed Graham Zusi in the face during a dead-ball situation along the sideline. The infraction went unnoticed by referee Jorge Gonzalez, but a video review from VAR Jon Freemon prompted Gonzalez to issue Nemeth a straight red card.
Sporting KC wasted little time translating their man advantage into an equalizer. Benny Feilhaber and Zusi combined down the right flank before the latter whipped a low delivery across the face of goal. New England goalkeeper Brad Knighton got a hand to the ball, but it fell invitingly to Gerso who hammered high into a gaping net for his team-leading 8th MLS goal and his 10th in all competitions.
Zusi continued to wreak havoc down the right wing, receiving a lovely chip over the top from Feilhaber, cutting past defender Benjamin Angoua and forcing Knighton into a reflex save in the 28th minute. The U.S. international would then set up Feilhaber for a pair of opportunities near halftime, but neither shot tested Knighton.
The go-ahead goal resulted from a free-flowing attack on the stroke of intermission. Zusi accelerated into the final third and spread the ball wide right to Gerso, who slid a teasing cross to the far left post. Rubio was on hand to poke home and fire Sporting KC into the lead, giving Gerso his second assist of 2017 and Zusi his team-leading sixth assist of the campaign.
Medranda carved out the first opportunity of the second half in the 52nd minute, intercepting a pass from defender Claude Dielna and cutting the ball back for Gerso, but the resulting shot was blocked through traffic.
Rubio sealed his first career MLS brace — and Sporting KC’s victory — with 57 minutes on the clock. A skipping volley from Feilhaber caromed off the left post and bounced kindly to Rubio for the simplest of one-time finishes on the rebound. The goal was Rubio’s fourth in MLS this season and his fifth overall, having scored in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals last month.
Knighton was called into action once more in the 66th minute, palming away a 25-yard thunderbolt from Zusi, before Melia made his only save of the night on a curling free kick from substitute Diego Fagundez.
A day after signing midfielder Kevin Oliveira from the Swope Park Rangers, Sporting KC awarded the 21-year-old his MLS debut in the 79th minute. The playmaker created a clear-cut chance in the first minute of added time, feeding Blessing inside the box, but the diminutive Ghanaian was unable to steer his shot on frame.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 28 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 78 degrees and partly cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City (11-6-11, 44 points)||2||1||3|
|New England Revolution (10-14-5, 35 points)||1||0||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Benny Feilhaber, Ilie, Jimmy Medranda (Soony Saad 83); Gerso (Kevin Oliveira 79), Diego Rubio (Cristian Lobato 65), Latif Blessing
Subs Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Erik Palmer-Brown, James Musa
New England Revolution: Brad Knighton; Andrew Farrell, Benjamin Angoua, Claude Dielna, Chris Tierney (C) (Daigo Kobayashi HT); Gershon Koffie, Lee Nguyen (Juan Agudelo 79), Scott Caldwell, Krisztian Nemeth; Teal Bunbury (Diego Fagundez 62), Kei Kamara
Subs Not Used: Cody Cropper; Je-Vaughn Watson, London Woodberry, Femi Hollinger-Janzen
|Shots on Goal||8||2|
NE -- Krisztian Nemeth (ejection; violent conduct) 13
SKC -- Diego Rubio (caution; unsporting behavior) 23
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda (caution; unsporting behavior) 26
NE -- Claude Dielna (caution; unsporting behavior) 86
NE -- Diego Fagundez (caution; unsporting behavior) 92+
NE -- Teal Bunbury 7 (unassisted) 4
SKC -- Gerso 8 (unassisted) 16
SKC -- Diego Rubio 3 (Gerso 2, Zusi 6) 45
SKC -- Diego Rubio 4 (unassisted) 57
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Assistant Referee: Jose Da Silva
Assistant Referee: Ian Anderson
Fourth Official: Alejandro Mariscal
VAR: Jon Freemon