A statistical look at Sporting's strong start to the 2020 regular season

Two chapters of Sporting Kansas City’s unprecedented 2020 campaign are in the books.

Part One saw Manager Peter Vermes’ men cruise to early-season victories over Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Houston Dynamo before MLS action was suspended on March 12. Part Two unfolded at the MLS is Back Tournament in Walt Disney World, where Sporting finished first in Group D and advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to the Philadelphia Union.

As the calendar turns to August, Sporting will now prepare for Part Three—and arguably the most defining chapter of a wild and unpredictable 2020: the resumption of the MLS regular season. Indeed, MLS plans to continue regular season play in the near term with a revamped schedule, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup. More details are likely to follow very soon.

Until then, we use the space below to identify the statistical highlights of Sporting’s excellent start to the year. As a quick refresher, only the three group stages matches in the MLS is Back Tournament count toward the league standings.

With that in mind, let’s take a numerical look at the first five games of Sporting’s 2020 regular season, defined thus far by solid team performances and equally impressive individual displays.

Team Success (Regular Season)

  • Sporting sits atop the Western Conference with 12 points and a 4-1-0 record, one point behind Supporters’ Shield leaders Columbus Crew SC.
  • Sporting’s 12 points are tied for the third-most through the first five matches of a season in club history (15 points in 2012, 13 points in 2000).
  • Sporting’s plus-8 goal differential is tied for the best in MLS and tied for the best through the first five matches of a season in club history.
  • Eight different Sporting players have scored a goal this season, the most in MLS.
  • Sporting has led at the 91-minute mark of all five matches this season.

Team Offense (Regular Season)

  • Sporting’s 13 goals are second-most in MLS and the most through the first five matches of a season in club history.
  • Sporting has outshot all five opponents this season, recording 70 shot attempts and facing 40.
  • Sporting leads MLS with a shot conversion rate of 18.6%.
  • Sporting leads MLS with eight primary assists from open play.
  • Sporting leads MLS with 126 successful passes in the attacking third per game.
  • Sporting is tied for second in MLS with 145 touches in the opponent’s box.

Team Defense (Regular Season)

  • Sporting’s eight shots faced per game are the second-fewest in MLS.
  • Similarly, their seven total shots faced on target are the fewest among MLS teams with five matches played.
  • Sporting’s two shutouts are tied for the third-most in MLS.

Forwards

  • Alan Pulido is second in MLS with seven combined goals (three) and assists (four).
  • Pulido is the only player to score a goal or record an assist in all five regular season appearances this year.
  • Khiry Shelton became the 16th player in club history to score in three straight regular season appearances, tallying goals on March 7, July 12 and July 17.
  • Pulido and Shelton are the only MLS players with at least three goals scored, five chances created and 30 duels won this season.
  • Pulido is tied for sixth in MLS with nine chances created from open play, while Shelton is one behind with eight.
  • Pulido and Shelton are tied for third in MLS with 30 touches apiece in the opponent’s box.
  • Johnny Russell has become one of five MLS players with 20 goals and 20 assists in the regular season since the start of 2018.
  • Daniel Salloi has become the first Homegrown Player to record 100 appearances for Sporting in all competitions.

Midfielders

  • Gadi Kinda is one of two players on the team (alongside Pulido) with multiple goals (two) and assists (two) this season.
  • Roger Espinoza ranks third in MLS with 12 tackles won.
  • Ilie Sanchez ranks seventh in MLS with 80 successful passes in the attacking third.

Defenders

  • With his goal on July 17, Graham Zusi has become the second player in Sporting history to record 100 combined goals and assists for the club in MLS competition (including playoffs).
  • Zusi and center back Roberto Puncec are the only Sporting players to play all 450 minutes of the regular season.
  • Matt Besler has become the first player in Sporting history to log 25,000 regular season minutes for the club. He leads MLS with 62 successful passes per game.
  • Luis Martins has recorded two assists from the left back position, tied for second-most on the team.

Goalkeepers

  • Tim Melia’s 316-minute regular season shutout streak dating back to Feb. 29 is the longest active streak in MLS.
  • Melia has a 3-0-0 record and a 0.26 goals against average in regular season play.
  • Among goalkeepers with at least four games played, Melia ranks second in MLS with a save percentage of .875.
  • Melia has become Sporting’s all-time shutout leader in the regular season (47) and across all competitions (56).
  • Richard Sanchez recorded a victory in his first start for Sporting on July 17 against the Colorado Rapids.
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