Sporting KC earn first road win of the season in sloppy victory over Columbus

Sporting KC win
COLUMBUS, OH — JUNE 23: Columbus Crew SC forward Pedro Santos #7 and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi #8 battle for the ball during the match between the Columbus Crew SC and Sporting Kansas City at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on June 23, 2019. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Columbus, Ohio (June 23, 2019) — It has finally happened.

Sporting Kansas City has won a game on the road this season. A 48th minute close-range header from Felipe Gutierrez was the difference-maker as Sporting defeated the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Sporting KC earn first road win of the season in sloppy victory over Columbus

Gutierrez’s goal was just one of two shots on target for Sporting KC, symbolizing what was a sloppy 90 minutes from both teams. Peter Vermes’ men could have taken an early lead when Gerso Fernandes was taken down in the box in the 11th minute by Waylon Francis. However, referee Allen Chapman waved the penalty claims away in what began a fruitless 34 minutes by Sporting.

Without a single shot on target in the first half by Sporting, Columbus piled on the pressure and arguably could have taken a lead into halftime. However, Patrick Mullins recorded an open-goal miss off a corner kick.

Meanwhile, coming out of halftime, Sporting shored up their sloppy play before taking the lead three minutes in. A swift piece of play down the left wing allowed Gerso to pick up the ball at the far post after a scuffed shot from Benny Feilhaber, before then sending the close range cross right onto Gutierrez’s head for the easy goal.

“I was expecting Benny would score but he missed so I was able to rescue the ball and cross it to Felipe,” Gerso said with a laugh after the game on Fox Sports Kansas City.

Things went from bad to worse for Columbus in the 74th minute. Harrison Afful was given a straight red card for denying Gerso a clear goalscoring opportunity.

“I think for the most part we played the second half really well,” Vermes said on Fox Sports. “We played a lot more direct which I think caused them some problems and we finished one of the chances we created.”

A vital clean sheet

For the first time since March 10, Sporting KC kept a clean sheet. Sporting can certainly count itself a little lucky in the feat as Columbus squandered several chances. However, that’s not to take away credit from goalkeeper Tim Melia.

Melia made four saves as well as several vital catches and clearances throughout the game, keeping Columbus’ offense at bay.

“Guys were just putting their body on the line,” Melia said on Fox Sports. “I thought our centerbacks, our fullbacks and the way our wingers were getting tucked back and supporting defensively was good.”

The clean sheet is important for a team that has conceded multiple last minute goals in the last month alone.

Defensive musical chairs

The age old saying “defense wins championships” may be a big reason why Sporting KC aren’t on track to win any championships this season. In 16 league games, Vermes has had to field 12 different back line combinations, including Sunday’s starting four of Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Botond Barath and Graham Zusi.

The lack of stability along the back line was evident in that fact. Despite keeping a clean sheet, Sporting committed several turnovers in its defensive third. Columbus simply sat waiting for Sporting to make a mistake throughout the first half.

Things may get even worse for Sporting, as both Besler and Zusi had to come off in the second half due to lack of fitness and nagging injuries.

The Wild West

Sporting KC’s win moves it up from last place to ninth in the Western Conference standings. Currently, they’re one point outside a playoff spot. A 2-2 tie between the Colorado Rapids and Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday allowed Sporting to jump both teams, as well as the Portland Timbers who have two games in hand.

There are just five points separating sixth-placed Minnesota United from last-placed Colorado. Meanwhile, the bottom couple of playoff spots are still wide open for the taking.

“These are the type of performances that I hope lift us and get us moving in the right direction,” Melia said.

 

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