SKC's Hurtado hits late winner to sink Minnesota
Erik Hurtado scored on a breakaway two minutes from full time, lifting Sporting Kansas City to a desperately needed 1-0 victory over Minnesota United on Thursday evening in Kansas City, Kan.
Hurtado's second goal since arriving at SKC (9-11-7, 34 points) prior to the season completed a second consecutive victory for the hosts, who moved within three points of the playoff line in the Western Conference.
Johnny Russell provided the service on Hurtado's deciding goal for Kansas City, which now sits ninth. SKC hasn't missed the playoffs since 2010.
Sporting Kansas City close a three-match homestand on Aug. 31 against a Houston Dynamo side that also sits outside the playoff places.
Tim Melia made five saves to preserve just his fifth shutout of the season, on a night the team in front of him outshot visiting Minnesota 22-12 and held 61 percent of the possession.
Melia's opposite number, Vito Mannone, looked en route to his 10th shutout of the year before conceding the goal in the dying moments of the encounter. He also had five saves.
After missing most of the season working back from a knee injury, Hurtado has now appeared in six consecutive games, starting four.
He gave SKC arguably their most important goal of the season on a sequence that began when Ilie Sanchez won possession off Minnesota's Abu Danladi and Darwin Quintero. Sanchez then spotted Russell on the right flank from near the center circle.
Hurtado made a vertical run at Minnesota's back line, and Russell pushed a speculative ball forward into his path.
Hurado beat the Loons' Michael Boxall in pursuit of it, rounded Mannone with his first touch and then finished into an open net with his second touch.
On the other end, Hurtado had SKC's best early chance, taking Felipe Gutierrez's layoff and forcing a lunging save out of Mannone from close range near the corner of the 6-yard box.