Beyond the Box Score

Beyond the Box Score pres. by Compass Minerals: Remi Walter shines in long-awaited 1-0 victory 

Last year, Sporting Kansas City won 18 matches by eight different scorelines. Remarkably, none of those 18 wins were 1-0 victories - which just so happens to be the most common scoreline in Major League Soccer since 2004 when MLS matches ended in regulation for the first time - and the 2021 campaign went into the record books as the only season in Sporting KC history in which the team did not have a 1-0 win.

This season will have no such anomaly.

Sporting Kansas City secured the elusive 1-0 victory on Saturday in the club's home opener with a sold-out crowd in attendance at Children's Mercy Park. The victory was Sporting's first 1-0 win since Oct. 28, 2020, a span of 36 regular season matches that is officially the longest such streak in club history.

Remi Walter provided the game's lone goal in the 60th minute and Tim Melia produced three saves for the shutout on a day in which the defense held Houston to just five shots - the fewest of any team in an MLS match this season. Melia now has 60 clean sheets since joining Sporting in 2015, which ranks most in MLS over the past eight seasons.

Walter, a versatile midfielder who arrived in KC for the 2021 season, had scored once last year while starting 11 games as a defensive midfielder (a position referred to as the six) and 11 games in a more advanced position (known as the eight) in the club's midfield. After starting as an eight in Week 1 at Atlanta, Walter filled in at the six on Saturday with Uri Rosell sidelined due to injury and turned in a man of the match performance.

"In the middle, it's a battle so every game is a fight," Walter said postgame on Saturday. "I think we have to be smart, and in my position, I can play the six or eight. The job is very different, but I think I'm a smart player and I can adapt my football on this team. So when I play in the six, I'm focused on being more defensive than offensive because it's very important to not let them have a chance to score."


The Frenchman led all players in SKCvHOU with 15 duels and 12 recoveries, while also contributing the game-winning goal in the 60th minute - capping off a scoring sequence that featured 28 passes over a stretch of one minute and 48 seconds of sustained possession as Sporting methodically plotted and probed. Ten different Sporting players touched the ball in the buildup and the only player who didn't, Khiry Shelton, momentarily froze the defense with a clever dummy on the final pass from Johnny Russell to Daniel Salloi inside the penalty area.


"I think we showed patience today and that wasn't easy because when you play your first game at home, everybody wants to do something. They're antsy and they want to get it done," Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said postmatch. "At halftime I was telling them ‘do not lose your patience’ because I just didn't want us to get in a place where we lack discipline."

"The patience was very good," said Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi, who made his 300th career start for Sporting in MLS competitions on Saturday. "I think that possession made them a bit tired and opened up things in the second half. I thought we continued to be patient in the second half. When you do that, eventually spaces are going to open and they did."


That patience - and the club's well-documented emphasis on fitness - has given Sporting a major advantage in recent years as the team has outscored opponents 43-21 from the 60th to 90th minutes in regular season matches since the start of 2020. Moreover, Sporting has excelled in protecting late leads and is now 22-0-1 in the regular season when leading in the 75th minute dating back to July 2020.

Sporting KC now has 15 goals from 14 different goal scorers in regular season home openers at Children’s Mercy Park since the stadium opened in 2011 and the club improved to 16-3-8 all-time in regular season home openers. That's the best win percentage (.741) of any of the 10 charter members of Major League Soccer and includes a 5-1-6 record at Children's Mercy Park since the venue opened in 2011.

(all-time in Major League Soccer from 1996 to present)

1. LA Galaxy 17
2. Sporting KC 16
2. Colorado Rapids 16
2. New York Red Bulls 16
2. New England Revolution 16

Playing in his second straight home opener after winning the club's Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2021, centerback Andreu Fontas set Opta-era (2010-present) MLS records last season in passes (2,818), successful passes (2,515) and touches (3,178). And yet, the Spaniard never had a game last season like he did on Saturday when he matched his MLS career highs in all three categories.

(Sporting Kansas City players from 2010-present)

1. Uri Rosell 172 (5/10/14)
2. Graham Zusi 140 (4/20/18)
3. Jimmy Medranda 131 (4/20/18)
4. Andreu Fontas 130 (3/5/22)

(Sporting Kansas City players from 2010-present)

1. Uri Rosell 164 (5/10/14)
2. Ilie Sanchez 118 (9/15/21)
2. Andreu Fontas 118 (5/29/21)
2. Andreu Fontas 118 (3/5/22)

(Sporting Kansas City players from 2010-present)

1. Uri Rosell 158 (5/10/14)
2. Ilie Sanchez 111 (9/15/21)
3. Graham Zusi 110 (4/20/18)
4. Andreu Fontas 109 (5/29/21)
4. Andreu Fontas 109 (3/5/22)

Saturday's victory was Sporting's third straight over Houston in the regular season, a first in the all-time series between the longtime rivals that now stands deadlocked at 13-13-13. Sporting are 8-3-2 in the last 13 regular season meetings with Houston since October 2017 however and both teams will have to wait until September 10 for the rematch in Texas.

Houston - who are now winless in 26 straight road matches - have failed to score in either of their first two regular season games for the first time in team history. The team has been shutout in each of their last four games, a streak of 395 minutes that dates back to Oct. 24, 2021 and stands as the club's longest scoreless streak since 2014.