Forward Johnny Russell scored a hat-trick and Sporting Kansas City tied its largest margin of victory in club history with a rampant 6-0 win over nine-man Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Friday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
Jimmy Medranda, Cristian Lobato and Yohan Croizet also got in on the scoring act for a dominant Sporting KC side (5-1-2, 17 points) that went seven points clear atop the Western Conference and pushed its unbeaten streak to seven matches. The Whitecaps (3-4-1, 10 points), who suffered their heaviest loss all-time, conceded three times within the first half-hour before midfielders Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez received straight red cards for violent conduct during an altercation at the end of the first half.
Friday’s historic performance saw Sporting KC rewrite the team record books, tying single-game highs in goals, shot attempts (34) and shots on target (14). Russell’s hat-trick was the eighth in Kansas City regular season history — and just the second in 2010 — while captain Matt Besler moved into first place all-time on the club’s regular season charts in matches started (228) and minutes played (20,551).
The hosts began their scoring spree early, but not before Tim Melia made his lone save of the night in stunning fashion. Reyna raced onto an Anthony Blondell through ball and rounded the Sporting KC goalkeeper, but Melia recovered brilliantly to produce a diving stop and set the stage for the rout that would ensue.
Russell landed his first punch in the 10th minute, finishing off a flowing move that involved Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza. Zusi spread the ball down the right channel to Espinoza, whose cutback pass found Russell on the right side of the box. The 28-year-old’s superb first-time hit caromed off the far post and into the net, igniting celebrations among the 19,690 in attendance.
Six minutes later, Russell doubled the advantage with an aggressive run into the box from the left wing and a low finish that deflect through traffic and past busy Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic. Espinoza recorded his fifth assist of the season on the play, tied for first in MLS and equalling a career-high for the Honduran with 26 matches still remaining in 2018.
Vancouver’s final sniff of goal came in the 23rd minute when a venomous volley from Blondell skimmed narrowly wide of Melia’s right-hand post. It was one-way traffic from that point forward, as Sporting KC took a commanding 3-0 lead on the half-hour mark.
Medranda was afforded space 30 yards from goal and unleashed a thunderous strike from the left channel that dipped and swerved before nestling high into the net. The jaw-dropping effort gave the Colombian his second goal of the campaign and the fifth of his MLS career, marking the first time since May 2015 that Sporting KC had bagged three goals in the first half of a league match.
The complexion of the game changed drastically five minutes before intermission when Vancouver captain Kendall Waston committed an aggressive foul on Espinoza. The play ignited a melee between the teams and prompted referee Kevin Stott to consult VAR Edvin Jurisevic. Upon reviewing the altercation, Stott issued red cards to Reyna and Juarez as the Whitecaps were reduced to nine players.
The floodgates opened early in the second half as Sporting KC cashed in on their numerical advantage. An incisive attack in the 48th minute led to Russell’s third goal, as the Scot collected a clever through ball from Besler and calmly chipped Marinovic from close range. In doing so, Russell moved into a tie for the MLS lead with his fifth goal of 2018 while Besler notched his 16th career assist in his record-setting start.
Russell exited the match to a standing ovation in the 52nd minute, making way for the player who provided Sporting KC’s fifth goal just moments later. Cristian Lobato had been on the field for just two minutes when he made a far-post run and chested home from point-blank range off a Croizet cross. The play gave Kansas City five goals in a regular season match for the first time since July 3, 2004, as Lobato opened his MLS scoring account.
Croizet turned from provider to scorer in the 77th minute as Manager Peter Vermes’ men delivered their final blow of the night. The Frenchman dashed onto the end of Ilie’s lovely ball over the top and poked low into the far left corner for his first goal in a Sporting KC uniform — a tally that tied Kansas City’s all-time record for most goals in a competitive match.
With a resounding home victory under their belts, Sporting KC will hit the road next Saturday, April 28, for a cross-conference battle with the New England Revolution (3-2-1, 10 points) at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 8 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 56 degrees and clear
|Sporting Kansas City (5-1-2, 17 points)||3||3||6|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3-4-1, 10 points)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Emiliano Amor, Matt Besler (C), Jimmy Medranda; Roger Espinoza (Felipe Gutierrez 76), Ilie, Yohan Croizet; Johnny Russell (Cristian Lobato 52), Khiry Shelton (Diego Rubio 71), Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Jaylin Lindsey, Seth Sinovic, Brad Evans
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Stefan Marinovic; Jose Aja, Kendall Waston (C), Marcel de Jong; Efrain Juarez, Felipe, Aly Ghazal, Yordy Reyna, Alphonso Davies (Russell Teibert 55); Anthony Blondell (Sean Franklin 45), Brek Shea (Bernie Ibini-Isei 72)
Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Nicolas Mezquida, Cristian Techera, Erik Hurtado
SKC -- Johnny Russell 3 (Roger Espinoza 4, Graham Zusi 1) 10
SKC -- Johnny Russell 4 (Roger Espinoza 5) 16
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda 2 (Daniel Salloi 4) 30
SKC -- Johnny Russell 5 (Matt Besler 1) 48
SKC -- Cristian Lobato 1 (Yohan Croizet 1) 54
SKC -- Yohan Croizet 1 (Ilie 1) 77
VAN -- Kendall Waston (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 36
VAN -- Yordy Reyna (red card; violent conduct*) 40
VAN -- Efrain Juarez (red card; foul and abusive language*) 40
SKC -- Johnny Russell (yellow card; unsporting behavior*) 40
*cards shown upon Video Review
|Shots on Goal||14||1|
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referee: Logan Brown
Assistant Referee: Cameron Blanchard
Fourth Official: Nima Saghafi
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic