Sporting Earns Second Straight Shutout Win
Sporting Kansas City (6-7-7, 25 points) secured a second straight shutout and second straight victory with a 3-0 road win over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-9-8, 20 points) on Saturday at BC Place in Canada. Gerso Fernandes gave Sporting the lead in the first half and capped off the scoring with a goal in the 90th minute, in addition to assisting Felipe Gutierrez's team-leading eighth goal of the season.
Tim Melia recorded a season-high six saves for the 58th win, breaking a tie with Jimmy Nielsen for the most by a goalkeeper in club history, and 43rd shutout of his MLS career - all coming with Sporting since joining the club in 2015.
Melia anchored a starting lineup on Saturday that was unchanged from Sporting's 1-0 win against the Chicago Fire last weekend as Peter Vermes enjoyed the luxury of fielding the same starting lineup for back-to-back MLS matches for the first time during an injury-riddled 2019 season. That meant the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath and Seth Sinovic once again started together, earning their fourth clean sheet in five regular season matches as a defensive unit.
Sporting controlled more than 60% of the possession in the first half and applied ample pressure before the breakthrough goal came in the 24th minute. Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Zac MacMath did well to push away Graham Zusi's curling free kick in the 13th minute and was well positioned to keep out Daniel Salloi's shot five minutes later, but was finally beaten on a shot from Fernandes that deflected off the foot of Ali Adnan and was officially ruled an own goal.
With Sporting in search of a second and Vancouver pushing forward to equalize, both sides would create chances on either side of halftime. Sporting came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet's well-struck volley was re-directed by Salloi from close range only to end up straight at MacMath, while Melia made his best save of the night to turn away Inbeom Hwang's free kick in the 48th minute and moments later watched 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair's shot miss narrowly wide of the post
As the game opened up, Fernandes nearly put his name on the scoresheet in the 52nd minute if not for a superb kick save from MacMath and then tallied an assist minutes afterward on a night in which he completed 37 of 38 passes, including 30 of 30 in the attacking half of the field.
Fernandes beat his defender and laid the ball off to Gutierrez on his left, leaving the rest to the Chilean international to take a single touch forward before unleashing a low blast from 25 yards out that bulged the back of the net. Gutierrez now has eight goals on the campaign, which is the most of any midfielder in MLS and seventh most among all players, in addition to logging six chances created on Saturday, most by any Sporting player in a match this season.
Despite a close call when Yordy Reyna's free kick rattled the post in the 76th minute, Sporting continued to threaten for a third goal over the course of the final 30 minutes. MacMath was forced into tipping Ilie's dipping effort over the bar and produced a one-on-one stop on Salloi before Fernandes put the exclamation point on an emphatic performance with a much-deserved goal in the 90th minute. Second-half substitutes Johnny Russell and Krisztian Nemeth linked up as Nemeth cut the ball through a crowded goalmouth to find Fernandes at the back post for a first-time finish with his left foot.
The victory was Sporting's 30th against Canadian opposition in the regular season and 12th on Canadian soil - both of which are most among all American MLS teams -but most importantly moves Sporting within four points of a playoff position currently held by seventh-place FC Dallas ahead of next Saturday's clash between the two MLS charter clubs at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek.com and fans are encouraged to arrive early for the induction of Josh Wolff into the Sporting Legends hall of honor during the pre-game festivities.
QUOTES Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On tonight's match...
I always think it's really difficult when you have to go away from home and sort of control the game. The fact that they bunkered in at home doesn't make for an easy game, because it's very easy to get a little overzealous and open yourself up for a counter. I thought there were two things. I thought, one, we were really good in possession. We didn't lose the ball in critical areas of the field that found us unbalanced and at the same time, when we did go forward, we were really conscientious of defending from behind. If they won the ball, we were really quick to snuff a lot of things out and I think that was the difference in the game.
On the early goal...
Especially against a team that really bunkers in, to score a goal early is big because now, all of a sudden, they have to try and play and they open themselves up. Even though in the second half I thought we started out okay and then we kind of had a little lull, we found our footing really quickly right after that and then it was getting the second goal that took a lot of life out of them. The third was just a consolation.
On controlling the match...
The fact that our possession was what it was and to be able to do that in somebody else's place and to do it in the fashion that we did was very mature on our part, on the players' part. And then the other is, the early goal is a big thing when you're in a situation like this.
On getting above the 'Caps in the standing...
I think the most important thing for us is gaining three points. That's the biggest thing. I tell the guys all the time, we can't worry about what everybody else is doing. We just have to focus on ourselves. You can sit at home and hope that everybody loses but that's not reality. If we're just taking care of our business, then we have a good shot.
Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell
On his hamstring...
It's been fine. I got back before the game last week, so I'm just sort of taking it easy, trying to get myself back in, and obviously get as many minutes as I need to get myself back fit.
On starting to turn the corner as a team...
It's still the same team that finished on top of the conference last year. We know how good we can be, and we haven't performed anywhere near what we're capable of, what we were showing last year. And that's been the most disappointing part. Everyone in that locker room knows that we have to do better, and I think over the last couple of games we've shown that.
On what's been behind the turnaround...
I mean [when] you lose the amount of guys we've lost, especially key players - and it's not as if we lose one here, one there, we lost them all pretty much at the same time - when you miss that many key players it's always going to hurt the team. Saying that, there's a lot of games that we should have seen out. We were leading in probably four or five games and teams have equalized in the last minute. That's down to us. That's nothing to do with injuries. That's concentration of the players that are on the pitch. So the injuries have hurt us, but at times the guys that have been playing, we've hurt ourselves as well.
On a tight Western Conference and anyone having a chance in the playoffs...
That's the thing. We need to be there, obviously as high up as possible. But being there is the most important thing. This club's been on such a great run of making the playoffs. I don't want to be involved where a group of players who break that tradition. It's important for the club, for the players, and for the fans as well.
Sporting Kansas City forward Gerso Fernandes
On the offense...
The whole team helps for that. As an offensive player, I try to do the best that I can with the chances that I get so I just try to do my best with the chances that I get.
On the own goal...
It helped a lot of course. When we are winning, we play with more confidence and try to look for the second one.
On the game plan...
We know where we want to be and to be there we have to play every game to win. So it doesn't matter if we're playing at home or away, you have got to start the game, pass and try to score it as soon as we can.
On Tim Melia's performance...
It's not the first time [to get a clean sheet]. We are very lucky to have him. He's a great keeper and it's not the first time that he's shown how good he is.
On the push to the post season:
I think if we keep playing like this, I have no doubt in my mind that we'll make it.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC head Coach Marc Dos Santos
On tonight's loss...
At this stage right now, we're a little bit fragile. We're in a position that every time the opponent scores, it looks heavy. We need to have a different type of mental toughness and react in a better way. When that happens, it's hard. I have to apologize to the fans for the first half. That's where the game happened. It was very sloppy, lack of intensity, lack of willingness mentally, not in the game for a game that's so important for us.
On the chances in the second half...
The second half, it became an exaggerated result. We had some good chances. Tim makes a good save, the other one hits the post. Ali gets in a good area in a dangerous play, Theo has a shot that comes very close. I think there we deserved a goal. Then when we don't score, 2-0, and then the result got a little bit exaggerated. I think the first half was key to our performance today. We didn't deserve to win due to our first half for sure.
On Theo Bair...
We're trying everything. Today the positive of the game was Theo Bair. It was positive to have him there. It was positive to see what he tried to bring to the team. That's great, that's a positive sign. At this point, we're trying everything to create. We're trying everything to find the best solution possible and hopefully we'll be able to grow.
On challenging the team...
Now, we have to think game-by-game. We have to think about what we want to look like. We still have the Canadian Championship to play for. We still have a lot to play for and I believe that inside. I'm challenging everybody in our locker room to show that we have that mental side that we can react to things. It's not going to be a group that's going to be blaming each other. It's going to be a group that fights to grow to become a better team.
On the decision to start Zac MacMath...
The 15 games that we've had since LA. From LA until the end of August, we have the possibility of 15 games and we were looking at what's the best time to rotate before Max gets a big stretch. This was the time for us in our cycle. It's tough for a goalkeeper to play 15 games in two months. We don't have to get anybody injured. Zac showed in other games that he can do the job. I trust Zac, he has the abilities to do well in this league.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Doneil Henry
On how to start getting more clean sheets again...
It's tough, because the defence has done really well. It's a lot of pressure. It's tough, I don't know. I don't want to make any excuses for why or what's going on. But when you're playing in a team that's not doing as well as we want to be doing, it's really easy to point the finger. But as a club, we're not doing well. I think it's kind of harsh to just say that the defense as of late has been doing poorly; as a team we've been doing poorly, and that needs to change.
On if this team is a playoff calibre team...
Yes, with everybody on the same page.
On how to right the ship going to New England...
The same way we go into every single game, with the mentality to win.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Theo Bair
On his first MLS start...
Lots of adrenaline, felt good, I think that it was unfortunate, not to get the lead but it's a progress, we have a good group of players, good team and I think that as long as we believe in each other, the season will go well from here.
On managing his size on the field...
It's been that way my whole life, every time that I touch someone, they usually fall so it is just something I need to adjust to, maybe pull up a little bit.
On New England match...
We just need to take it game by game, New England is a good opponent but I think that as long as we get together, get our heads straight, we can beat them.
On MLS Homegrown match...
I'm trying not to think about it too much because obviously I just played my first 90 minutes with the team, so I just want to focus on New England and help [the team] as much as I can, and once that game comes, I'll take the time to enjoy it and have fun and play well.
On being a part of the first team...
It's a completely different level, it demands a lot more, the guys are more serious it's still a lot of fun but this is a job so we have to take it seriously as well so it's just different for sure but I really like it.
On Marc Dos Santos' trust in him...
It feels great, obviously when your coach is behind you, that's the best feeling in the world so it felt good.
2019 MLS Regular Season
Game 20 of 34
BC Place | Vancouver, British Columbia
Weather: 69 degrees and partly cloudy
Watch: Full match highlights
Goal: Gerso Fernandes opens scoring
Goal: Felipe Gutierrez scores 8th of year
Goal: Gerso Fernandes caps off scoring
Postgame: Manager Peter Vermes
Postgame: Forward Gerso Fernandes
Postgame: Goalkeeper Tim Melia
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (6-7-7, 25 points) 1 2 3
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-9-8, 20 points) 0 0 0
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Botond Barath, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez, Gedion Zelalem (Benny Feilhaber 65'); Gerso Fernandes, Yohan Croizet (Krisztian Nemeth 71'), Daniel Salloi (Johnny Russell 89')
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Graham Smith, Gianluca Busio, Jimmy Medranda
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Zac MacMath; Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Andy Rose; Jakob Nerwinski (Joaquin Ardaiz 90'), Hwang In-Beom, Jon Erice (Lucas Venuto 60'), Victor Giro (Russell Teibert 60'), Ali Adnan; Yordy Reyna, Theo Bair
Subs Not Used: Maxime Crepeau, Scott Sutter, Derek Cornelius, Felipe
SKC -- Ali Adnan (own goal) 24'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez 8 (Gerso Fernandes 4) 56'
SKC -- Gerso Fernandes 1 (Krisztian Nemeth 2, Johnny Russell 4) 90'
VAN -- Victor Giro (caution; unsporting behavior) 48'
SKC -- Ilie Sanchez (caution; unsporting behavior) 68'
SKC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; unsporting behavior) 75'
VAN -- Doneil Henry (caution; unsporting behavior) 81'
VAN -- Erik Godoy (caution; unsporting behavior) 90'
VAN -- Ali Adnan (caution; unsporting behavior) 94+
Stat SKC VAN
Shots 20 13
Shots on Goal 10 6
Saves 6 8
Fouls 13 15
Offsides 1 2
Corner Kicks 8 5
Referee: Ramy Touchan
Assistant Referee: Chris Wattam
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Mark Allatin
VAR: Alex Chilowicz
AVAR: Mauricio Navarro
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