Beyond The Box Score: Gerso Fernandes and five-star Sporting KC shine on historic night in San Jose

Half an hour before Sporting Kansas City took the field at Avaya Stadium on Saturday, Western Conference leaders FC Dallas and Columbus Crew SC scrapped to a 0-0 draw some 1,600 miles away in Frisco, Texas. With that result in the books, Sporting KC had the opportunity to take sole possession of first place with a win over the last-place San Jose Earthquakes.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men took full advantage, and in breathtaking style.

Gerso Fernandes exploded for two goals and two assists while Felipe Gutierrez, Ike Opara and Krisztian Nemeth also got in on the scoring act in a 5-1 demolition of San Jose. Most importantly, the comprehensive triumph vaults Sporting KC to the Western Conference summit with six regular season matches remaining. It also prompts a revisiting—and rewriting—of the club history books.

Saturday’s scintillating salvo marked just the second time that Sporting KC has scored five goals in a regular season road game. The first such occasion occurred at Colorado on April 29, 2000, the same year Peter Vermes captained Kansas City to their first MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield title.

SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS IN AN AWAY MATCH
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Goals Date Opponent Result
5 04/29/2000 at Colorado Rapids W 5-0
5 09/15/2018 at San Jose Earthquakes W 5-1
4 07/13/2002 at New England Revolution W 4-2
4 05/14/2005 at Columbus Crew SC W 4-0
4 08/13/2005 at Real Salt Lake W 4-2
4 04/14/2007 at D.C. United W 4-2
4 05/26/2007 at New England Revolution W 4-3
4 09/05/2009 at New England Revolution W 4-2
4 06/12/2011 at FC Dallas W 4-1
4 09/12/2014 at Chivas USA W 4-0
4 04/25/2015 at Houston Dynamo T 4-4
4 03/10/2018 at Chicago Fire W 4-3

“We were on tonight, and I think we were very clinical in and around the box, which is a big part of the game,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said postgame. “We had some great finishes (and) we were very confident in our buildup play, which actually created a lot of opportunities for us. And so, both defensively and offensively, we were solid tonight.”

Vermes also shared words of individual praise for Fernandes, who tormented the Quakes all night long with two goals—a decadent chip in the first half and a sweet volley in the second—and two inch-perfect assists on either side of intermission. Fernandes became the third player in Kansas City history to record two goals and two assists in an MLS match, joining club legend Preki (1996, 1998) and Josh Wolff (2005).

“It was probably one of his best performances of the year,” Vermes said of Fernandes’ rampant outing. “A lot of it had to do with his movement off the ball—it was just tremendous. Obviously he scored and all that, but just his movement in the game was great. I think he caused a lot of problems for their back line, and a lot has to with the fact that he’s working very hard in training every week. I’m a big believer that if you do well in training, it usually translates to the game.”

SPORTING KC: TWO GOALS + TWO ASSISTS IN A MATCH
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Player G A Date Opponent Result
Preki 3 2 09/05/1998 vs. San Jose Earthquakes W 5-1
Preki 2 2 05/02/1996 vs. Columbus Crew SC W 6-4
Josh Wolff 2 2 05/14/2005 at Columbus Crew SC W 4-0
Gerso Fernandes 2 2 09/15/2018 at San Jose Earthquakes W 5-1

On an evening where so much went right for Sporting KC, Fernandes wasn’t the only one to leave a historic mark on the match. Striker Diego Rubio, who replaced Nemeth three minutes after the Hungarian scored his first goal since returning to Sporting KC last month, assisted Fernandes’ 86th-minute volley to round out the scoring.

In doing so, Rubio extended his club record to eight straight MLS matches with a goal or an assist. That mark is three shy of the all-time MLS record, currently held by four different players. One of whom is Toronto FC talisman Sebastian Giovinco, who has scored or assisted in his last 11 league appearances since July 4.

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH A GOAL OR ASSIST
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Games Player Club Year
11
11
11
11
Ronald Cerritos
Roy Lassiter
Mauricio Cienfuegos
Sebastian Giovinco
San Jose Earthquakes
D.C. United
LA Galaxy
Toronto FC
1997
1998
1998
2018 (active)
10
10
10
Raul Diaz Arce
Cobi Jones
Clint Dempsey
D.C. United
LA Galaxy
Seattle Sounders FC
1997
1998
2014
9
9
9
9
Amado Guevara
Fredy Montero
Diego Valeri
Josef Martinez
New York Red Bulls
Seattle Sounders FC
Portland Timbers
Atlanta United FC
2004
2010
2017
2018
8
8
Diego Rubio
17 other players
Sporting KC
 
2018 (active)
 

Sporting KC’s attacking depth was on full display in San Jose, with Rubio and Johnny Russell—the team’s joint top scorers in MLS—coming off the bench in the second half. Nemeth and Fernandes bagged goals as starters, of course, while Homegrown forward Daniel Salloi was an unused sub after returning from international duty with Hungary earlier in the week. That’s not to mention the improved form of Frenchman Yohan Croizet, the return of Khiry Shelton—who is working his way back to fitness after missing two months through injury—or the offensive productivity of Gutierrez, who is one behind the team lead with seven MLS goals.

Needless to say, Sporting KC’s strength in attacking numbers bodes well for the team going into the final month of the regular season. And if Vermes’ side closes the campaign with a steady stream of goals, 2018 could become the club’s highest-scoring season ever.

Sporting KC has amassed 54 goals this year, third-most behind the club’s first two seasons in existence. Simple math tells you the team needs eight goals over its last six matches to set a new record.

The same idea applies away from home. Sporting KC has 24 road goals this season, two more than their 2016 (12) and 2017 (10) totals combined. The team record stands at 29, meaning this year’s squad has three more games—at Philadelphia on Sept. 23, at Vancouver on Oct. 17 and at FC Dallas on Oct. 21—to tie or break that mark.

SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS IN A REGULAR SEASON

Season Goals Games Goals/Game
1996 61 32 1.91
1997 57 32 1.78
2018 54 28 1.93
2005 52 32 1.63
2011 50 34 1.47

SPORTING KC: MOST AWAY GOALS IN A REGULAR SEASON

Season Goals Games Goals/Game
2005 29 16 1.81
2018 24 14 1.71
2007
2014
23
23
15
17
1.53
1.35
1997 22 16 1.38

A strong attacking punch away from home has translated into six road wins for Sporting KC in 2018, tied for the second most in MLS and more than they managed in all of 2016 (three) and 2017 (two) combined. And perhaps nowhere has that road success been more pronounced than in the state of California.

Coming on the heels of 2-0 wins at LA Galaxy and LAFC earlier this season, Sporting KC added Saturday’s thrashing of San Jose to their impressive bag of results in the Golden State. Since June 2016, the club is 5-0-2 in California with four shutouts, 13 goals scored and three conceded. This streak includes the perfect trifecta in 2018 with three multi-goal victories.

SPORTING KC IN CALIFORNIA SINCE JUNE 2016

Date Opponent Result
06/02/2016 at LA Galaxy T 0-0
09/24/2016 at San Jose Earthquakes W 2-1
06/17/2017 at San Jose Earthquakes T 0-0
06/24/2017 at LA Galaxy W 2-1
04/08/2018 at LA Galaxy W 2-0
08/11/2018 at LAFC W 2-0
09/15/2018 at San Jose Earthquakes W 5-1

Lastly, we would be remiss not to mention a wild statistical oddity to emerge from Saturday’s contest. Going into halftime, neither team had been whistled for a foul by referee Dave Gantar. Incredibly enough, this was the first time in MLS regular season history that neither team had committed a single foul in the first half of a match.

FEWEST FOULS IN A FIRST HALF
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Fouls Matchup Date Result
0 SJ vs. SKC 09/15/2018 SJ 1-5 SKC
2 LA vs. CHI 10/02/2009 LA 1-0 CHI
2 HOU vs. CLB 06/18/2011 HOU 0-2 CLB
2 TOR vs. MTL 09/20/2017 TOR 3-5 MTL
3 11 times    

Sporting KC will remain on the road next Sunday when they visit the Philadelphia Union (12-12-4, 40 points), the lone opponent Sporting KC has yet to face in 2018, in a nationally televised showdown on ESPN at noon CT.

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