Beyond The Box Score presented by Compass Minerals

"Beyond The Box Score" is a weekly series presented by Compass Minerals that takes a statistical dive into every Sporting match, bringing to light the intriguing numbers and factoids that don't appear in the typical box score. To visit the series archive, click here.



Sporting Kansas City were early to rise and early to strike on Wednesday morning, dispatching rivals Real Salt Lake by a 2-0 scoreline to secure a top-two finish in Group D of the MLS is Back Tournament at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.


The most important takeaway from the routine performance is the fact that Sporting, currently atop the Western Conference standings, has advanced to the MLS is Back Tournament Knockout Stage presented by Audi and will take the field for a Round of 16 encounter at either 10 p.m. CT Sunday or 7 p.m. CT Tuesday, depending on Minnesota United FC's result against the Colorado Rapids this evening.


But before casting our eyes on the highly anticipated knockout rounds of this historic and unprecedented competition, there's plenty for Sporting fans to revel in after Manager Peter Vermes' men ousted RSL for their first regular season win in the series since 2017. For starters, Sporting will be just one point off the Supporters' Shield lead when Major League Soccer's 2020 regular season resumes later this year. Their 13 goals scored and plus-8 goal differential are, at the time of this publishing, the best marks in MLS.



SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS THROUGH FIRST FIVE MATCHES OF A REGULAR SEASON

<strong>Goals</strong>
<strong>Season</strong>
<strong>Goal differential</strong>
<strong>Season Outcome</strong>
13
2020
+8
?
12
2019
+7
Missed playoffs
11<br> 11<br> 11
1996<br> 2000<br> 2003
-2<br> +8<br> +2
Lost in Conference Finals<br> Won MLS Cup<br> Lost in Conference Finals

As for Wednesday's match in particular, it was only appropriate that the earliest kickoff time in club history—9 a.m. in Florida and 8 a.m. in Kansas City—was immediately followed by one of Sporting's quickest goals ever. A mere 49 seconds after kickoff, Johnny Russell found the back of the net to give his side a 1-0 lead and enter the record books as the fourth-fastest Kansas City goal scorer in a regular season match. His right-footed effort marked the fifth time Sporting had scored in the first minute, and the first such occasion since 2013.


EARLIEST GOALS IN SPORTING KC REGULAR SEASON HISTORY

<strong>Time</strong>
<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Date</strong>
<strong>Opponent</strong>
<strong>Result</strong>
0:33
Davy Arnaud
08/22/2003
vs. Colorado Rapids
T 2-2
0:36
Scott Sealy
09/09/2006
vs. Colorado Rapids
W 4-1
0:41
Chance Myers
04/27/2013
vs. Portland Timbers
L 2-3
0:49
Johnny Russell
07/22/2020
vs. Real Salt Lake
W 2-0
0:50
Ryan Pore
09/03/2005
at NY/NJ MetroStars
T 2-2

Additionally, Russell etched his name into elite company as one of five players in Major League Soccer to register 20 goals and 20 assists in the regular season since the start of 2018. The others to do so? LAFC star Carlos Vela, Portland talisman Diego Valeri and Houston Dynamo duo Alberth Elis and Darwin Quintero.


PLAYERS WITH 20 GOALS & 20 ASSISTS SINCE 2018
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Goals</strong>
<strong>Assists</strong>
<strong>Games</strong>
Carlos Vela
LAFC
50
28
61
Diego Valeri
Portland Timbers
21
29
67
Alberth Elis
Houston Dynamo
22
20
58
Darwin Quintero
Houston Dynamo<br> Minnesota United FC
21
20
57
Johnny Russell
Sporting Kansas City
20
20
63

Sporting weren't finished, however, although supporters were made to wait until the 86th minute for the goal that put RSL away for good. Just two minutes after entering as a substitute, Gerso Fernandes unfurled a left-footed beauty into the far corner for his first goal of the season. As soccer statistician Paul Carr pointed out, the superb strike culminated a 17-pass, 56-second sequence in which all 11 Sporting players on the pitch touched the ball.

Mexican striker Alan Pulido assisted both goals on Wednesday to continue his red-hot start to life as a Sporting player. Pulido's seven combined goals (three) and assists (four) are the second-most in the league, and his active run of five straight appearances with a goal or an assist is the longest in MLS this season.


MOST COMBINED GOALS & ASSISTS IN 2020
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Total</strong>
<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Goals</strong>
<strong>Assists</strong>
<strong>Minutes</strong>
8
Diego Rossi
LAFC
6
2
360
7
Alan Pulido
Sporting Kansas City
3
4
442
6
Alejandro Pozuelo
Toronto FC
1
5
423
5
Ayo Akinola
Toronto FC
5
0
266
5
Lucas Zelarayan
Columbus Crew SC
3
2
324
5
Jordan Morris
Seattle Sounders FC
3
2
336

LONGEST STREAKS WITH A GOAL OR AN ASSIST IN 2020
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Games</strong>
<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Dates</strong>
5
Alan Pulido
Sporting Kansas City
02/29/2020 to present
4
Diego Valeri
Portland Timbers
03/01/2020 to present
3
Diego Rossi
LAFC
03/08/2020 to present
3
Khiry Shelton
Sporting Kansas City
03/07/2020 to 07/17/2020
3
Gyasi Zardes
Columbus Crew SC
03/07/2020 to 07/16/2020
3
Chris Mueller
Orlando City SC
03/07/2020 to 07/14/2020
3
Kevin Molino
Minnesota United FC
03/01/2020 to 07/12/2020

Offense wasn't the only name of the game on Wednesday, as Sporting posted its first shutout in the MLS is Back Tournament. After serving a red card suspension in last week's 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids, goalkeeper Tim Melia returned between the posts and pushed his active shutout streak to an MLS-best 316 minutes dating back to opening day on Feb. 29.


LONGEST ACTIVE SHUTOUT STREAKS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

<strong>Minutes</strong>
<strong>Player</strong>
<strong>Club</strong>
<strong>Dates</strong>
316
Tim Melia
Sporting Kansas City
02/29/2020 to present
257
Zac MacMath
Real Salt Lake
03/70/2020 to 07/22/2020
199
Stefan Frei
Seattle Sounders FC
03/07/2020 to 07/14/2020
191
Eloy Room
Columbus Crew SC
03/07/2020 to present
190
Steve Clark
Portland Timbers
03/01/2020 to 07/13/2020

With a well-earned morning victory in the bag, Sporting will now play the waiting game before learning their placement in the knockout stage bracket. If Minnesota fails to beat Colorado tonight at 9:30 p.m. CT, Sporting will finish first in Group D and face the third-place finisher from Group B, E or F at 10 p.m. CT on Sunday in the Round of 16. If Minnesota defeats Colorado, Sporting will finish second and meet Supporters’ Shield leaders Columbus Crew SC in the Round of 16 at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday.