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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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Erik Hurtado’s stunning volley lifts Sporting to 2-1 comeback win over Nashville SC

Forward Erik Hurtado’s world-class volley lifted Sporting Kansas City (9-5-2, 29 points) to a 2-1 comeback victory over 10-man Nashville SC (4-6-6, 18 points) on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

Faced with a 1-0 deficit at halftime, Sporting leveled terms on a 53rd-minute goal from Gerso Fernandes before Hurtado came off the bench to bag a jaw-dropping stunner in the 79th minute. The magisterial strike stood as the match-winner as Sporting claimed their third consecutive triumph and moved within a point of Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC.

Manager Peter Vermes’ side has racked up three regular season wins in the space of nine days for the first time since 2014, marking the seventh such occurrence in club history. The result also pushed Sporting’s record to 10-3-4 in inaugural regular season meetings with expansion clubs and snapped Nashville’s four-game unbeaten run.

Gerso and right back Jaylin Lindsey accounted for Sporting’s two fresh faces in the starting XI from a 1-0 home win over Chicago FC on Wednesday. Lindsey—making his first start since Sept. 5—replaced the injured Graham Zusi, Gerso joined the attack, and Gadi Kinda dropped from center forward into the midfield as Roger Espinoza moved to the substitutes’ bench.

Taking the field at Children’s Mercy Park for the first time, Nashville needed just 62 seconds to fire warning signs at Sporting’s backline. Costa Rican international Randall Leal was afforded space on the right edge of the penalty area and tried his luck with a venomous blast from an acute angle, forcing goalkeeper Tim Melia to tip the ball onto the crossbar and keep the game goalless.

Sporting were less fortunate in the 15th minute when the visitors were errantly awarded a corner kick following a set piece into the box. Nashville nevertheless converted on the opportunity as Zimmerman rose to meet Leal’s corner and snap a header that beat Melia, caromed off the head of Sporting’s Johnny Russell and bounced over the goal line. Zimmerman recorded his second goal of the season on the play and put an end to Nashville’s 235-minute scoreless drought dating back to Sept. 26.

The hosts retorted by conjuring their first chance in the 23rd minute, with Russell overlapping Shelton on the right channel, receiving a well-weighted pass and seeing his left-footed effort repelled by Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis. Less than three minutes later, a decadent Sporting attack involving Kinda, Russell and Gerso culminated with a dangerous delivery whipped across the face of goal that narrowly eluded Lindsey at the far post.

At the opposite end, Melia produced an excellent stop in the 36th minute by diving low to his left and casting aside Derrick Jones’ turf-trimmer through traffic. Nashville had another bite at the apple on the ensuing loose ball, but Sporting left back Amadou Dia extinguished the danger with a headed clearance.

The second half belonged to Sporting, who restored parity in the 53rd minute thanks to a brilliant display of skill from Russell. The Scottish international slalomed down the right side, surging past defender Daniel Lovitz and dancing along the endline before cutting a pass low across the goalmouth for Gerso, who had the simplest of finishes at point-blank range. Gerso’s second goal of the campaign—notched via Russell’s third assist in 2020—also extended Sporting’s scoring streak to 16 regular season matches, tied for the third-longest in club history and four shy of the team record.

The complexion of the game took another sharp change two minutes after Gerso’s equalizer when Nashville’s Alistair Johnson was sent off for his second yellow card offense. Sporting had effectively seized momentum at this defining juncture of the contest and almost took the lead on the hour mark when Hurtado settled a diagonal pass from Busio, calibrated at the top of the box and curled a shot off the woodwork.

However, Hurtado would not be denied with 11 minutes remaining. Dia’s looping diagonal ball from the left wing to the opposite side of the box was met emphatically by Hurtado, whose phenomenal volley dipped over a helpless Willis and nestled into the left corner of the net. Hurtado has tabbed three goals this season in just 153 minutes of action, including two as a substitute, while Dia collected his first MLS assist since September 2015.

Sporting comfortably controlled the final moments of the game to see out a 2-1 triumph and will look to continue their winning ways Wednesday with a challenging trip to FC Dallas (5-4-6, 21 points) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The 7:30 p.m. CT showdown will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports GO.

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