The Sounders have lost three consecutive games and were outscored 7-1 in their two-game trip.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Gerso Fernandes scored three second-half goals in 13 minutes, Tim Melia had his seventh shutout and Sporting Kansas City beat the Seattle Sounders 3-0 on Wednesday night for sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.
Kansas City (6-2-4) is undefeated in 15 straight home games. Seattle (2-5-4) lost its third straight. Seattle has allowed seven goals in its last two games (both on the road). The Sounders also fell 4-1 to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday.
Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer orchestrated a starting lineup without United States men’s national team forward Clint Dempsey (rest), captain Osvaldo Alonso (quadriceps injury) and defender Joevin Jones (suspension).
Fernandes is the first Sporting KC player with a hat trick since Birahim Diop in 2010.
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In the 56th minute, Fernandes had a deflected corner kick fall to his feet and he slotted it inside the near post. Two minutes later, Fernandes one-touched a shot off the post and he put it home after blocking a clearance attempt. In the 69th, Graham Zusi found space along the edge of the 18-yard box and found an open Fernandes at the penalty spot.
Melia kept it scoreless in the first half with two quality saves just before halftime. He stayed low to kick away Alvaro Fernandez’s breakaway shot in the 45th and on the ensuing corner kick, Melia dove to his left to deny Cristian Roldan’s shot from distance.
Fernandes tallied the first Sporting KC hat trick in seven seasons, the overwhelming force of the win against the Sounders that propelled Sporting back atop the Western Conference standings.
“Here, things are changing,” Fernandes said. “The team is helping me. The coach is helping me. I’m scoring more goals than usual.”
Even more impressively, it all came in a 13-minute span. After a lackluster opening half in which Sporting KC did not even attempt a shot, Fernandes beat Seattle keeper Stefan Frei three times from close range.
Fernandes said of the improved effort after halftime: “Basically (coach) Peter (Vermes) had to scream at us in the locker room.”
Said Vermes: “That’s true.”
Oh, and Fernandes matched that career high of five professional goals in one season. He has 22 games left to set a new mark.
He stepped into traffic to break a scoreless tie. He clicked the post and then gathered the rebound and pulled the trigger on a second shot for his next goal. And he awaited a perfect pass from defender Graham Zusi for his third.
Each of them were followed with a bat-swing goal celebration that is becoming a recognizable sight inside Children’s Mercy Park.
He effectively pushed Sporting Kansas City’s home unbeaten streak — stretched to 15 games Wednesday — to a mere footnote. The next time Sporting KC plays on its home field, it will have been more than a year since it lost a match there.
There was a bit of payback added to the win Wednesday.
Seattle is the defending MLS champion, and the path to the cup last winter began with a controversial 1-0 victory against Sporting KC, a match in which Sporting KC felt it was on the wrong end of multiple referee’s calls that affected the outcome.
Seattle was content to slow the pace Wednesday, putting numbers behind the ball and awaiting the counter. It was effective, too.
Well, for a half. The Sounders prevented Sporting KC from even attempting a shot in the first half, and they twice put together counters to test Sporting KC keeper Melia.
The Sounders will try to end their losing streak when they host Real Salt Lake at 2 p.m. Saturday.