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For the second time in less than 72 hours, Sporting Kansas City were left ruing their luck after a series of officiating decisions worked against them.
In Wednesday's 1-0 loss at FC Dallas, a late Johnny Russell equalizer was disallowed for a contentious foul call on Gadi Kinda. In a wild 2-2 stalemate at Chicago Fire FC on Saturday, Sporting midfielder Cam Duke was apparently clattered inside the box by Alvaro Medran, but the referee waved play to resume and video review never revisited the play.
And if anyone needed reminding of how Chicago scored their last-gasp, 95th-minute equalizer, Sporting Manager Peter Vermes provided exactly that after the match.
"Did you want to add that it was four minutes of extra time and the goal was scored at four minutes and roughly 19-20 seconds? And I'm trying to understand where the additional time came from because the game was being played by both teams at a fast and furious pace," Vermes said.
Controversy aside, the fact of the matter is that Sporting—despite taking three fewer points than they may have deserved in their two-game road swing this week—are tied for first place in the Western Conference heading into Sunday's slate of fixtures.
Level with Seattle and Portland on 30 points, Sporting has navigated a grueling stretch of five matches in 15 days by taking 10 points, including three straight victories from Oct. 3-11.
Perhaps more impressively, Sporting played four of five games during this busy period without the services of star striker Alan Pulido, who was on international duty with Mexico in Europe.
Indeed, Erik Hurtado had some big shoes to fill when Pulido departed for the Netherlands, but the hulking forward delivered in a big way. Following up what will surely be an MLS Goal of the Year contender in Sporting's 2-1 defeat of Nashville SC on Oct. 11, Hurtado was first on the score sheet Saturday when he displayed a fine mix of speed, strength and skill to give Sporting a 1-0 advantage at Soldier Field.
In addition to ranking fourth in MLS with 1.12 goals per 90 minutes, Hurtado has played the fewest minutes of any player with at least four goals this season.
FEWEST MINUTES PLAYED AMONG PLAYERS WITH 4+ GOALS
(2020 MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|Erik Hurtado||Sporting Kansas City||4||321||1.12|
|Santiago Mosquera||FC Dallas||4||333||1.08|
|Anthony Fontana||Philadelphia Union||5||363||1.24|
|Jaroslaw Niezgoda||Portland Timbers||5||510||0.88|
Kinda's role in the back-and-forth contest was far from finished. After Chicago equalized on the stroke of halftime through Robert Beric, the Israeli international restored Sporting's lead in the 83rd minute off a Johnny Russell corner kick that was flicked across the face of goal by Ilie Sanchez. All Kinda had to do was steer the ball home from point-blank range, giving him a goal and an assist on the day.
Examining the productivity of first-year players in MLS this season, Sporting Kansas City can make the argument that they boast two of the most impactful newcomers of 2020. Kinda and Pulido are two of four MLS newcomers, alongside Inter Miami CF's Lewis Morgan and Columbus Crew SC's Lucas Zelarayan, with at least five goals and three assists.
NEWCOMERS WITH AT LEAST 5 GOALS AND 3 ASSISTS
(2020 MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|Lewis Morgan||Inter Miami CF||5||6||19|
|Alan Pulido||Sporting Kansas City||5||4||10|
|Lucas Zelarayan||Columbus Crew SC||5||4||11|
|Gadi Kinda||Sporting Kansas City||5||3||16|
"Gadi’s a good player for us and does a good job. He was, I believe, very important for us today in the way that we played and will be going (forward) in the future," Vermes said. "I think every guy who played today came on the field and put a good shift in. We played very well, played to the plan and played to the adjustments that we made at halftime.
"Gadi and the rest of the guys, they were committed and they were fighting for it. That’s what you want as a manager. You want your team to fight. You want your team to compete. The guys are doing that. That’s a good thing."
The 83rd-minute tally also marked the continuation of Russell's sparking run of form over the last five weeks. Dating back to Sept. 13, Russell has seven combined goals and assists in as many appearances. He is one of just two MLS players with four goals and three assists during that spell, joining LAFC striker Bradley Wright-Phillips
MOST COMBINED GOALS AND ASSISTS SINCE SEPT. 13
(2020 MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|Fredy Montero||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||8||3||5|
|Johnny Russell||Sporting Kansas City||7||4||3|
|Alejandro Pozuelo||Toronto FC||7||5||2|
|Romell Quioto||Montreal Impact||7||3||4|
|Lewis Morgan||Inter Miami CF||7||3||4|
|Nicolas Lodeiro||Seattle Sounders FC||7||3||4|
Not to be lost on Opta was the fact that Sporting has now scored seven goals from corner kicks this season, tied with Real Salt Lake for the most in MLS.
Unfortunately for Sporting, their 2-1 lead would dissipate on one of the final kicks of the game. Mihailovic's 95th-minute leveler was the latest MLS goal Chicago has scored since May 28, 2009.
With a grueling run of matches in the rearview mirror, Sporting will have a full week to prepare for their next fixture against the Colorado Rapids (5-4-4, 19 points). Next Saturday’s clash at Children’s Mercy Park is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at SeatGeek.com and live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports GO.