When Krisztian Nemeth started ringing up goals for Sporting Kansas City earlier this season, manager Peter Vermes noted two things – one about his young Hungarian forward, the other about the history of football in Nemeth's native country.
Nemeth was a throwback to the Hungarian old school, Vermes said at the time – to an era in the mid-20th century when Hungarians were known as “the Brazilians of Europe.”
On Saturday night, in coming off the bench to deliver a late match-winner and three huge road points, Nemeth showed the full extent of what Vermes was talking about – and in the process, staked a serious claim for MLS Goal of the Year consideration.
“I say this with all due respect,” Vermes told reporters during a conference call after Sporting's 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers. “He picked those guys apart, and the finish was fantastic. That was a fantastic finish.”
The play began when Nemeth, waiting at the edge of the center circle about seven yards into Sporting's half of the field, took a pass from Graham Zusi. After crossing midfield, he weaved in and out with Portland's Diego Chara multiple times before the Colombian lost his balance and fell on his backside, then going through a similar maneuver with Portland's Nat Borchers before the defender also fell down.
Nemeth completed the impressive run by shooting it past the final defender, Liam Ridgewell, and goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, just inside the far post.
It wasn't even the first clutch goal of the week for Nemeth, who usually plays on the wing but came on against the Timbers as a 73rd-minute sub for Jacob Peterson – who was himself filling in for Dom Dwyer – at center forward.
On Wednesday, Nemeth delivered Sporting's second-half equalizer in the US Open Cup final, which Kansas City won on penalties after dueling the Philadelphia Union to a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time.
“We played 120 minutes on Wednesday,” Vermes said. “We had to be really smart with our guys, even though we're going to be on break next week. We had incredible, incredible work ethic from all the guys that came on and started tonight.”
Not to mention one who came on and finished in spectacular fashion.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.