Beyond The Box Score: Gutierrez and Hurtado star as Sporting sinks Seattle in five-goal thriller

On the 10th anniversary of his trophy-laden head coaching stint in Kansas City, Manager Peter Vermes saw his team capture its biggest victory of the 2019 campaign.

Felipe Gutierrez bagged a first-half brace, hulking forward Erik Hurtado provided what turned out to be the game-winner and Sporting Kansas City emerged from CenturyLink Field with a gargantuan 3-2 triumph over Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday night.

In dire need of a result, Sporting silenced the third-place Sounders to move within five points of playoff positioning in the Western Conference going into a decisive five-game stretch that will include four home fixtures at Children’s Mercy Park.

Gutierrez was largely to thank, having turned the game on its head in the first 45 minutes. The Chilean finished off a scintillating buildup move involving Daniel Salloi and Seth Sinovic to put Sporting ahead in the 12th minute, then doubled his tally—and his side’s lead—from the penalty spot on 33 minutes.

In doing so, Gutierrez took his team-leading MLS goal haul to 10 on the year and became just the fourth midfielder in club history to record 10 or more goals in a single regular season. He follows in the footsteps of the legendary Preki—who had four double-digit scoring seasons in Kansas City—plus Mark Chung and current teammate Benny Feilhaber, who notched 10 each in 1997 and 2015, respectively.

Twelve different forwards have hit the 10-goal mark for Kansas City, but only four have done so as midfielders.

SPORTING KC MIDFIELDERS: 10 GOALS IN AN MLS REGULAR SEASON

Player Goals Year
Preki 18
12
10
12
1996
1997
1998
2003
Mark Chung 10 1997
Benny Feilhaber 10 2015
Felipe Gutierrez 10 2019

Gutierrez can give partial credit on his second goal to the indefatigable Gerso Fernandes, who won the penalty kick by drawing a foul on Seattle defender Nouhou near the endline. Gerso now moves into a tie for second in MLS with three penalties won this season—level with MVP frontrunner Carlos Vela of LAFC and Albert Elis of Houston and behind only Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the LA Galaxy.

Sunday’s three precious points came at the expense of a Sounders side that has now fallen to Sporting on six occasions since 2015. After going just 1-7-1 in the first nine all-time meetings, Sporting owns a 6-2-3 regular-season record against Seattle over the last four years. Their six victories over the Rave Green during that stretch are tied with the Portland Timbers for the most in MLS.

MOST REGULAR SEASON WINS VS. SEATTLE SINCE 2015

Club Wins Record
Sporting KC 6 6-2-3
Portland Timbers 6 6-5-2
Real Salt Lake 5 5-5-0
LA Galaxy 4 4-3-4
FC Dallas 4 4-4-2

The fact that Sporting prevailed by scoring three goals at CenturyLink Field is particularly eye-opening. It marked the first time in 10 visits to the stadium that Sporting has struck more than once, and it was just the 11th time across 178 regular-season matches in club history that the Sounders had conceded three or more goals on home turf.

The five-goal barnburner, which included a brace from Sounders and U.S. international Jordan Morris, also continued a recent trend in the head-to-head series. After almost a decade of grinding out one low-scoring affair after another, Sporting and Seattle have now combined for four or more goals in four straight regular-season meetings since early 2018. That happened just once in the first 16 games between the clubs from 2009-2017.

FOUR OR MORE GOALS IN SPORTING VS. SEATTLE MEETINGS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON SINCE 2009)

# Date H/A Result
2 10/17/2009 Home Sporting 2-3 Seattle
17 04/15/2018 Home Sporting 2-2 Seattle
18 09/01/2018 Away Seattle 3-1 Sporting
19 05/26/2019 Home Sporting 3-2 Seattle
20 08/04/2019 Away Seattle 2-3 Sporting

Make no mistake, the outcome of Sunday’s clash could have been different if not for the game-changing influence of Sporting’s center forward. Hurtado, landing his first MLS start in a Sporting uniform, spearheaded the visitors’ attack for 80 minutes and delivered the play of the game with 58 minutes on the clock. Hurtado, who has missed the last four months with a knee injury, checked for the ball near midfield before cutting into the attacking half to receive a pass from Gerso. The 28-year-old took a wickedly clever touch past Seattle defender Kim Kee-hee and turned on the afterburners, storming goalward before slotting low past Stefan Frei with lethal precision to make the score 3-1.

Coincidentally, the goal was Hurtado’s first since scoring as a member of Vancouver in a 2-2 stalemate at New York City FC—precisely one year earlier to the day, on Aug. 4, 2018.

“We had a good mentality, especially on the road. You have to be able to grind games out sometimes and we were able to do that tonight,” Vermes said after the match.

“There have been times here when we’ve lost our composure a little bit, (but) we were really good today,” Vermes continued. “And it was good to see Felipe (Gutierrez) play well and Erik Hurtado was really good for us in the game. For him to be able to play as many minutes as he did tonight was big-time. It’s good to look down at the rest of the games that we have so we can use somebody like him as we continue to move forward.”

And move forward Sporting will. Next up is a pivotal home battle with rivals Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. CT Saturday inside Children’s Mercy Park. RSL currently occupy sixth place in the West, six points ahead of Sporting. Needless to say, a win for Sporting would work wonders as the club pushes for its ninth straight playoff berth.

Tickets for Saturday’s match are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting hosts its third annual Sporting Salutes. Held in partnership with Hallmark and military units from Kansas and Missouri including the Kansas National Guard and the U.S. Air Force’s 303rd Fighter Squadron, Sporting Salutes is an immersive military appreciation night recognizing past and present service personnel and their families across all branches of the United States Armed Forces.

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