In a season that has been nothing but unpredictable, MLS teams have had to turn to some unlikely heroes to keep their playoff pushes moving forward. On Sunday night in Kansas City, that unlikely hero was Erik Hurtado, who lifted Sporting KC to a 2-1 win over Nashville SC with an even unlikelier goal.
In his second year with Sporting, Hurtado has primarily come off the bench, and thirty minutes after subbing on for Khiry Shelton on Sunday evening, he volleyed a banger of a go-ahead goal over Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis. It was Hurtado's third goal of the season and gave Sporting all three points.
In the postgame press conference, the 29-year-old admitted that he had “done it a handful of times — back in college, back in high school, middle school — but never on a big stage like that so it's pretty cool.”
Sporting manager Peter Vermes compared the goal to Dutch forward Marco van Basten’s legendary strike for the Netherlands in the title match of the 1988 UEFA European Championship, calling Hurtado’s volley "world-class."
After the game, Johnny Russell added, “I don't think people understand how hard that technique is and he executed it perfectly. I said that to him at the time, I couldn't believe, to be honest, what I'd seen and I could see that tonight would probably take a little bit of something special and he more than produced that.”
As good as the goal was, perhaps even more important for Sporting was that it gave them a third straight win to keep their march to the playoffs moving along, even as they deal with the absence of star forward Alan Pulido to international duty. The absence of the team's first-choice No. 9 has necessitated that Vermes depend more upon players like Hurtado and Shelton to get the goals.
“Whether it's because of an injury or just fatigue or, you know, just too much congestion with the schedule, it's really been about everybody on the roster contributing — it's an important aspect for any team,” said Vermes. “I've never experienced a season like this before where every single player on the roster has been used over the course of the season and in meaningful ways.”