Playing for the seventh time in 22 days? No problem.
Battling down a man for 70 minutes? No problem.
Securing a sixth straight road result? No problem.
Sporting Kansas City (11-4-6, 39 points) showcased their collective resolve on Saturday afternoon at sunny Allianz Field, claiming a valiant point in a scoreless draw against Minnesota United FC (7-6-7, 28 points) as part of Heineken Rivalry Week.
Make no mistake, the chips were stacked against Manager Peter Vermes’ men before kickoff and throughout the game.
For starters, Sporting were at the tail end of a congested fixture run that bundled seven competitive matches into the space of three weeks. Minnesota, meanwhile, had played two fewer games during that period and entered the weekend with an extra 24 hours’ rest after both teams played at midweek.
Midway through the first half, Sporting were dealt another blow when midfielder Remi Walter was sent off by referee Marcos DeOliveira. But rather than wilt under the adverse circumstances, rather than fall dogged to heavy legs or bemoan the officiating decisions cast against them, Sporting rallied to snatch a precious point in the race for first place in the Western Conference.
“The incredible thing is that our team, left and right, fights for it,” Vermes said after the match. “That's our mentality. They aren't going to be denied. They're going to work for it. I give them all of the respect in the world for that piece.”
Sporting’s steely mentality has been on full display during a historic unbeaten streak away from home. The run now stands at six matches dating back to July 4, good for the second longest in club history and tied for the longest in a single regular season. Sporting previously went unbeaten in seven consecutive regular season road games from the end of 2012 to the start of 2013, as listed below.
Sporting KC: Longest Road Unbeaten Runs
(MLS Regular Season, All-Time)
- 7 matches | 08/04/12 to 03/02/13 | 4-0-3 | 8 GF, 2 GA | 5 shutouts
- 6 matches | 07/04/21 to 08/21/21 | 4-0-2 | 11 GF, 2 GA | 4 shutouts
- 6 matches | 05/28/11 to 07/16/11 | 2-0-4 | 8 GF, 4 GA | 2 shutouts
- 6 matches | 06/05/04 to 07/17/04 | 4-0-2 | 10 GF, 5 GA | 2 shutouts
- 6 matches | 08/12/00 to 09/09/00 | 2-0-4 | 8 GF, 4 GA | 3 shutouts
- 6 matches | 04/08/00 to 05/27/00 | 3-0-3 | 9 GF, 2 GA | 3 shutouts
Enveloped in that six-match unbeaten run is a three-game road shutout streak, as Sporting has come away with clean sheets in recent contests against the Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas and Minnesota. This marks only the fourth time in Kansas City history that the club has posted four straight road shutouts in the regular season—and just the second time it has happened in a single season after Sporting bagged four on the trot in 2012.
Sporting KC: Longest Road Shutout Streaks
(MLS Regular Season, All-Time)
- 4 matches | 08/04/12 to 09/22/12 | 3 wins, 1 draw
- 4 matches | 10/16/16 to 04/15/17 | 1 win, 3 draws
- 3 matches | 10/22/11 to 04/01/12 | 3 wins, 0 draws
- 3 matches | 08/07/21 to 08/21/21 | 1 win, 2 draws
Goalkeeper Tim Melia, of course, is probably the man most responsible for Sporting’s miserly defensive form away from home in recent weeks. The 35-year-old keeper has delivered one dazzling performance after another on Sporting’s travels, and Saturday was certainly no exception.
“Tim was excellent, but Tim's been excellent all year,” Vermes said. “He's another guy who doesn't get recognized in the way that he should. Week in and week out, he is a consistent goalkeeper. Excellent at shot stopping, excellent with his feet and a great team guy. Just tremendous.”
Melia’s seven saves on Saturday were tied for the fourth most in his MLS career and the second time he has totaled at least seven stops at the expense of Minnesota.
Tim Melia: Most Saves in an MLS Match
- 10 saves | 04/08/18| W 2-0 at LA Galaxy
- 8 saves | 05/09/18 | W 2-0 at Atlanta United FC
- 8 saves | 08/25/18 | W 2-0 vs. Minnesota United FC
- 7 saves | 09/09/15 | T 0-0 at Portland Timbers
- 7 saves | 10/16/15 | L 0-1 at San Jose Earthquakes
- 7 saves | 07/04/21 | W 2-0 at LA Galaxy
- 7 saves | 08/21/21 | T 0-0 at Minnesota United FC
Even more impressively, no MLS goalkeeper has more regular season shutouts since 2015 than Melia. The 2015 campaign holds particular relevance in this context, as it was the year that Melia became Sporting’s full-time starting goalkeeper.
“That type of performance where we all come together as a group and everyone is sacrificing their body all over the field and running players down, that's the type of performance for me that galvanizes you as a group,” Melia said. “We didn't walk away with three points but so proud of the way we played tonight. Even if they had snuck a goal in there at the end, it wouldn't change the way I feel about the game at all because we truly came together as a group and we fought for every inch on that field today.”
With a grueling slate of matches in the rearview mirror, Sporting will now get a full week of preparation before hosting the Colorado Rapids at 8 p.m. CT on Saturday, Aug. 28. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek.com for Retro Night at Children’s Mercy Park, featuring two MLS charter clubs in contention for the top spot in the Western Conference.