HOW IT PLAYED OUT
As the ball pounded the back of the net for a third time in their favor, Peter Vermes had every reason to turn to the 20,000 in attendance, pound his chest and proudly emphasize the words, "I. Told. You. So."
He has earned it through the first two-plus months of the season.
It was in that moment that Gerso collected his third tally of the evening, the first hat trick for Sporting Kansas City in nearly seven years, and his fourth goal in 12 matches (all in the team's last eight games) since joining Sporting Kansas City on January 4. One by one by one, the product of a true winger demanding attention from the outside in, and not the other way around, which many, rightly, thought was suspect not even five months ago.
It was also in that moment that Graham Zusi, a fan-favorite-coveted-soon-to-be-Sporting-Legend delivered the type of ball you expect to see in the early morning hours on your couch, from a game more than an ocean away. It was the type of vision that fans have come to expect from Zusi this season. Not as a winger, where he made his mark at the club, but at right back, where he's quickly become a staple along a back line that has turned heads around the league — a move many, again, rightly, thought was suspect in February.
The moment was a microcosm of the game, a 3-0 drubbing of a Seattle Sounders FC side missing Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso and Roman Torres. It also served as a reminder that so far, which cannot be emphasized enough, Vermes has pulled all the right strings.
"Sure, there's a lot of things that are happening now that we were thinking about (before the season)," Vermes said after the match. "But give a lot of credit to the players who have been working very hard in training to accomplish the things that (we decided to do), and it's starting to come out in our games."
Sporting KC is best in the West. Yes, it's May 17, and that's mighty important in this league. But the club carries a 6-2-4 record, giving up just seven goals while putting up — count 'em — seven shutouts. At the moment, this appears to be a reinvigorated team set on making noise this postseason.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Who can deny a man who scored three times, including one with his non-dominant foot, Man of the Match honors*?
It's no secret that foreign players more often than not struggle to make the jump to MLS for a vast number of reasons. Gerso, however, benefitted from a full preseason and the trust of his coaches and teammates from the get go.
One of the best compliments I can give Gerso is that he's fearless. He wants to be around the ball. He wants to score. Sporting KC has lacked that at times over the last two seasons, attacking players taking a needless extra touch, or passing when a short shooting window showed itself.
Of course, he's also alleviated pressure from the middle as a true winger. But when he has overlapped into the middle, it's opened the door for Sporting KC's fullbacks to slide into that wide space and force defenders to make a decision. When one of those fullbacks is a former winger himself, and comfortable out wide in a playmaking role, that underscores another dimension of this attack that has, at times, looked dominant.
Gerso is a big reason why.
*Let's also shout out a couple individual moments that might go unnoticed otherwise: Zusi's vision on the final goal was superb, and Jimmy Medranda's relentless pressure within the high line directly resulted in the second of the evening. And don't get me started with the sliding cross. Medranda is the master at flying-under-the-radar plays
IT'S BEEN A WHILE
GIF OF THE MATCH
At Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday at 6 p.m.