Beyond The Box Score: Johnny Russell's historic hat-trick sinks Seattle

Sunday’s match belonged to Johnny Russell. That much was apparent over the course of 90 thrilling minutes at Children’s Mercy Park.

The rampant Scot notched a treble of left-footed strikes in the Kansas City sunshine, leading Sporting to an invaluable 3-2 victory over the second-place Sounders in a Western Conference clash that entertained from start to finish.

Russell’s hat-trick heroics weren’t entirely new—he had scored three goals in a 6-0 dismantling of Vancouver last season—but his Herculean performance on Sunday came when Sporting was in dire need of maximum points.

Encumbered by a seven-game MLS winless streak, a slew of injuries and facing one of the best teams in the league, Sporting bounced back into the win column thanks in large part to the contributions of Russell, who etched his name into Sporting’s record books with a rare feat that only one other player has accomplished.

In 2007, then-Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson scored two regular-season hat-tricks—coincidentally doing so in consecutive matches on May 26 and June 2. For almost a dozen years, Johnson was the only Kansas City player who had recorded two regular-season hat-tricks for the club.

Russell, of course, changed that on Sunday at the expense of a Sounders side that entered the weekend on a six-game unbeaten run and occupying second place in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

With his first-half brace and 68th-minute winner, Russell joined Johnson as the only two Sporting players to boast multiple regular-season hat-tricks in a Kansas City uniform.

MOST HAT-TRICKS IN SPORTING KC HISTORY (MLS REGULAR SEASON)

# Player Date(s) Result(s)
2 Eddie Johnson 05/26/2007
06/02/2007
W 4-3 at New England Revolution
W 3-2 vs. New York Red Bulls
2 Johnny Russell 04/20/2018
05/26/2019
W 6-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
W 3-2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC
1 Krisztian Nemeth 03/30/2019 W 7-1 vs. Montreal Impact
1 Gerso Fernandes 05/17/2017 W 3-0 vs. Seattle Sounders FC
1 Birahim Diop 10/23/2010 W 4-1 vs. San Jose Earthquakes
1 Davy Arnaud 07/03/2003 W 5-1 vs. FC Dallas
1 Preki 09/05/1998 W 5-1 vs. San Jose Earthquakes
1 Digital Takawira 05/16/1998 W 3-1 at New England Revolution

Perhaps just as impressively, Russell also became just the second MLS player—joining prolific Atlanta United FC striker Josef Martinez—to score multiple regular-season hat-tricks since the start of 2018. Martinez has bagged three trebles during that time, Russell has tallied two, and no other player in the league has more than one.

The statistical rarities don’t stop there, however.

For the first time since 1998, Sporting has had two hat-trick heroes in the same regular season. Twenty-one years ago, Digital Takawira and Preki scored hat-tricks in separate MLS matches for the Wizards. Fast-forward to 2019, and Krisztian Nemeth’s hat-trick in a 7-1 defeat of the Montreal Impact on March 30 was followed by Russell’s salvo against Seattle.

HAT-TRICKS IN MLS REGULAR SEASON SINCE START OF 2018

# Player Club Date(s) Result(s)
3 Josef Martinez Atlanta United FC 03/17/2018
06/02/2018
07/21/2018
W 4-1 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
W 3-1 vs. Philadelphia Union
W 3-1 vs. D.C. United
2 Johnny Russell Sporting KC 04/20/2018
05/26/2019
W 6-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
W 3-2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC
1 16 players 13 different clubs --- ---

Nemeth and Russell—two of Sporting’s eight MLS All-Star Fan XI nominees—are now tied for the team lead with seven MLS goals apiece. That makes Sporting one of two clubs to have two players with at least seven league goals this season. First-place Los Angeles Football Club is the other, with Golden Boot leader Carlos Vela scoring 15 times and Diego Rossi netting seven.

On a related note worth mentioning, Nemeth and Russell rank tied for second in MLS in goals excluding penalty kicks. Vela leads the way with 13, while the Sporting duo and Rossi have seven each.

MOST GOALS IN MLS EXCLUDING PENALTY KICKS
(2019 REGULAR SEASON)

Player Club Goals
Carlos Vela LAFC 13
Krisztian Nemeth Sporting KC 7
Johnny Russell Sporting KC 7
Diego Rossi LAFC 7
Nani Orlando City SC 6
Chris Wondolowski San Jose Earthquakes 6

Nemeth served a red card suspension on Sunday, but it didn't stop the hosts from emerging victorious. Next up are Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on Wednesday in a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park.

The Galaxy are 0-5-6 in Kansas City since the start of 2008 and will be tasked with containing a Sporting offense that has sizzled on home turf thus far.

For context, Sporting have scored 19 goals in seven MLS home matches this season. That’s a clip of 2.71 goals per home game, which ranks first in the league.

On the whole, Manager Peter Vermes’ men have managed to carry their excellent attacking form from 2018 into 2019. The club is currently averaging 1.92 goals per game through 12 league fixtures, second in MLS only behind LAFC.

MOST GOALS PER HOME GAME
(2019 MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Club GPG Goals Games
Sporting KC 2.71 19 7
LAFC 2.50 20 8
Philadelphia Union 2.25 18 8
Chicago Fire 2.13 17 8
Three teams 2.0    

MOST GOALS PER GAME
(2019 MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Club GPG Goals Games
LAFC 2.40 36 15
Sporting KC 1.92 23 12
Toronto FC 1.77 23 13
Philadelphia Union
Seattle Sounders FC
1.71
1.71
24
24
14
14

Tickets for Wednesday’s match against the third-place Galaxy are on sale at SeatGeek.com as Sporting celebrates Soccer For All, signifying that all fans are welcome to the club regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. The game will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.

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