Sporting Kansas City’s Saturday night was already going well before its match at San Jose Earthquakes kicked off.
FC Dallas left the door to first place in the Western Conference open after battling Columbus to a scoreless draw earlier in the day.
Armed with that knowledge, Sporting KC wasted little time busting through that door with a dominating 5-1 victory over San Jose at Avaya Stadium.
Sporting KC (15-7-6) now has 51 points, one clear of FC Dallas, and has climbed out of the hole created by summer swoon that saw the club go winless in five consecutive matches, including four losses.
Sporting KC, perhaps more than any other club in the league, can appreciate the importance of picking up as many points as possible down the stretch. On this night, there was no doubt.
“I think from the beginning of the game to the end, we played very well. It’s hard to figure out what to expect in the game, based on the fact they’re out of the playoffs,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “But tonight we were excellent with the ball, our movement off ball was fantastic and we were clinical within the box.”
San Jose, the worst club in MLS, helped make Sporting KC’s ascension back to first place possible when it beat FC Dallas 4-3 in its last home match.
Whatever moxie the Earthquakes possessed that night wasn’t there on Saturday, and Sporting KC was happy to take full advantage early and often in the first half.
Sporting KC first broke through in the 18th minute when Gerso Fernandes picked out Felipe Gutierrez with a low, hard cross. Gutierrez, unmolested on a diagonal run in front of the San Jose goal, clipped the ball with the back of his heel and into the far side of the net.
It was Gutierrez’s seventh goal of the season, and his second consecutive match with a goal as he rounds back into the form he exhibited in March before being sidelined by hernia surgery during the summer.
Gutierrez returned the favor to Gerso just minutes later. Gerso got behind the San Jose defense with a well-timed run, corralled a long pass from Gutierrez, and chipped the ball over the Earthquakes goalkeeper.
The duo had one last trick up their collective sleeve before the night was done.
Gutierrez found Gerso all alone midway through the second half, charging down the left side of the San Jose defense. Gerso used all that time and space to set up Krisztian Nemeth for his first goal since returning to Sporting KC.
“It was an important goal. He’s done a lot of good things in games, and for him to get on the scoresheet is great,” Vermes said. “That goal opened things up for him.”
Gerso picked up his second goal late in the match, and now has five goals and five assists on the year.
“Gerso’s movement off the ball was great, and his speed caused an amazing amount of confusion for them,” Vermes said. “He’s feeling the game, and I’m very happy that he got that fifth goal there. He put himself in a good position and he wanted it. I’m glad it went in the back of the net.”
Sporting KC is now unbeaten in its last six matches against San Jose, winning five of them. San Jose got a late goal, denying goalkeeper Tim Melia from adding to his league-leading shutout total.
The club will look to continue its hot streak next Sunday at Philadelphia.