As the age-old sports saying goes, defense wins championships. Look no further than Sporting Kansas City as a prime example.
In fact, an in-depth statistical study conducted by American Soccer Analysis reveals that Sporting Kansas City boasts three of the top six defenses in the history of Major League Soccer, as well as four of the top 13.
American Soccer Analysis released its comprehensive report today, with the 2000 Kansas City Wizards—anchored by a center back named Peter Vermes—taking the top spot. The 2017 and 2012 iterations of Sporting, both coached by Vermes, rank fourth and sixth, respectively. The 2013 MLS Cup champion Sporting outfit was identified as one of three honorable mentions outside the top 10.
The calculation used to generate the final ranking is detailed in the article, but the basic concept is that teams are ranked by goals allowed per game adjusted for goals scored in that era, with more weight given to playoff games. A lower percentage indicates a better defensive team. Note that the top three single-season defenses all won MLS Cup.
- 2000 Kansas City Wizards (-48%) | Won MLS Cup
- 2007 Houston Dynamo (-43%) | Won MLS Cup
- 2011 LA Galaxy (-42%) | Won MLS Cup
- 2017 Sporting Kansas City (-42%) | Lost in Knockout Round
- 1999 LA Galaxy (-41% | Lost MLS Cup
- 2012 Sporting Kansas City (-37%) | Lost in Conference Semifinals
- 2010 Real Salt Lake (-36%) | Lost in Conference Semifinals
- 2007 Chivas USA (-36%) | Lost in Conference Semifinals
- 2018 New York Red Bulls (-36%) | Lost in Conference Finals
- 2016 Colorado Rapids (-33%) | Lost in Conference Finals
"That (2000 season) was my first year here at the club," Vermes told American Soccer Analysis. "That team was full of veterans. It was a brand new team. Bob Gansler brought in a lot of new players, but he brought in a lot of veterans.
"We had great goalkeeping in Tony (Meola). He could just come up with the unbelievable save. I was very vocal, and I think in that team it took a lot of pressure off him. I would be organizing the front and he could focus on goalkeeping. He was an unbelievable goalie. He was big time.
"We had this veteran group that was nasty. As soon as we scored a goal it was like we were closing the doors, game over. We were that kind of team.”