Tale of Two Halves: Melia, Gerso key to Sporting KC's win over Seattle

KANSAS CITY, Kan.—Thirteen minutes. That’s all it took for Gerso to write his name into the Sporting Kansas City history book.

Well, that and his team’s collective locker-room blistering from manager Peter Vermes after a scoreless and overly cautious first half against the Seattle Sounderson Wednesday night.

The Guinea-Bissau winger responded with three second-half goals – in the 56th, 58th and 69th minutes – providing all of the offense in a rousing 3-0 victory that lifted Sporting into the Western Conference lead. It was Sporting’s first hat trick in MLS play since their 2011 rebrand and move to Children’s Mercy Park, the last previous coming in Oct. 23, 2010 when Birahim Diop scored three for the then-Wizards in a 4-1 victory over San Jose.

“I’m feeling very happy to be a part of this story,” Gerso said. “It’s important to get three goals and get this hat trick, but it’s most important to win as a team.”

As opportunistic and aggressive as Sporting were in the second half – especially after Gerso’s one-two punch forced the Sounders to chase the match and expose their depleted back line – they were equally hesitant in the first half, holding 67 percent of the possession without attempting a single shot.

“Yeah basically Peter had to scream at us on what we were doing so that we change our mind,” Gerso said. “We went to the second half with everything.”

Vermes cheerfully acknowledged giving his team an earful – but also acknowledged that they responded.

“We weren’t very dangerous in the first half,” he said. “And what I thought was very good in the second half, and we talked about it, was that we needed to move the ball much quicker, and we needed to have better penetrating runs. If you look at it all, especially the (last) two goals that Gerso scored, if you look at the number of players we had in the box, that was the difference between the first half and the second half.

“The fact that we scored changed the game big-time. They had to come and play, and it opened up and we were able to stick the other two in.”

If Gerso was the hero of the second half, though, goalkeeper Tim Melia was the man of the first 45.

Melia, who recorded his seventh clean sheet of the year, had three saves before the break, two of them – a reaction stop on Alvaro Fernandez and a dive to his left to deny Cristian Roldan – coming just before the whistle.

“That’s the way our season has gone, our team does a good job keeping the ball and limiting opportunities to the opposition,” said Melia, who lowered his league-best goals-against average to .583 – even after giving up four goals in Sporting’s two previous matches. “I’m grateful to have the team in front of me that I do and I’m always ready to help the team at any moment.”

The help didn’t go unnoticed.

“I went up to Tim right after the game, and I said, ‘What you did for us in the first half is equally as important as what Gerso did,’” said midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who recorded his 50th career assist on Gerso’s third goal. “If we go down 1-0, if we go down 2-0, I can almost guarantee you that we’re not coming back and winning 3-2.

“Those are huge saves. That’s what he’s there for, but we know that we’ve got a very, very big-time goalie behind us that when we do make these mistakes, he’s going to save us more times than not. He’s been doing it all year. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.”