In a season thus far defined by tons of goals, a devastating attack, fluidity in possession and high-octane thrills, Sporting Kansas City proved on Saturday night that they are more than capable of rolling their sleeves up, muddying the waters, defending brilliantly and grinding out results amid adverse circumstances.
Faced with near-unprecedented fixture congestion, tired legs to key players and absences tied to injury, caution accumulation or personal reasons, the Western Conference leaders traveled to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday in what shaped up to be a formidable task.
Earn another road result after winning at LAFC on Wednesday. Against a team that has been dominant at home throughout the summer. With a makeshift lineup. In a formation other than the familiar 4-3-3. At an altitude of a mile high. In a city that currently has the worst air quality in the world.
Final score: Sporting 0, Colorado 0. An outcome that vaults Manager Peter Vermes’ men into sole possession of first place in the West and within three points of the Supporters’ Shield lead.
“A massive, massive point,” Vermes declared after the game. “I think everybody who came on the field left their heart on the field and gave everything they had. From that perspective, it’s great. That’s a big point for us on the road.”
A sample of underlying statistics would support just how solid Saturday’s result was for a Sporting side that began in a 3-5-2 formation with the likes of Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton and Ilie Sanchez either on the bench or unavailable due to fatigue, injury or suspension.
We begin with the fact that the Rapids, who trail first-place Sporting by only six points in the standings with two games in hand, had scored in each of their previous 32 regular season home matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. That was the longest active streak in MLS and the fifth longest in league history.
That streak went up in flames Saturday night as goalkeeper Tim Melia made three splendid saves and Sporting’s 10 field players collectively stymied the Rapids in a cagey and combative contest.
With Colorado posting a goose egg this weekend, the longest active home scoring streak in MLS now belongs to Sporting Kansas City. Vermes’ side has scored in 24 consecutive regular season home games dating back to Aug. 10, 2019. LAFC ranks second on the list with 18, followed by New York City FC with 14. No other clubs are on active home scoring streaks longer than eight matches.
Longest active home scoring streaks
(MLS regular season)
- 24 matches: Sporting KC (since Aug. 10, 2019)
- 18 matches: LAFC (since Sept. 2, 2020)
- 14 matches: New York City FC (since Sept. 26, 2020)
- 8 matches: FC Dallas (since May 1, 2021)
- 8 matches: Orlando City SC (since May 1, 2021)
- 8 matches: Nashville SC (since May 8, 2021)
Remarkably enough, Saturday’s match delivered Sporting their first goalless draw in the regular season since June 9, 2018—a period of well over three years. From June 23, 2018, to Aug. 4, 2021, Sporting went 91 straight regular season matches without a 0-0 tie. That’s the longest run in club history since the dawn of Major League Soccer’s non-shootout era in 2000. The second longest—a period of 48 straight games from May 7, 2005, to July 29, 2006—pales in comparison.
Sporting KC: Longest streaks without a goalless draw
MLS regular season since 2000)
- 91 matches: 06/23/18 to 08/04/2021
- 48 matches: 05/07/05 to 07/29/2006
- 44 matches: 08/12/06 to 04/09/2008
- 37 matches: 06/25/11 to 07/04/2012
- 29 matches: twice
“Credit to our guys for stepping in with all the (players) out with injuries and suspension to come into a really a difficult place to play in a different style and adapt to it quickly and, more importantly, get out of here with a result,” said Melia, whose performance between the posts rightly garnered plenty of post-match attention.
Melia, of course, was a key piece to Saturday’s puzzle as Sporting received valuable contributions from all 16 players who took part in the game. The statistics below underscore how each player carried a notable role in seeing out the precious point.
- GK Tim Melia: Made three brilliant saves for the second shutout in his last four road appearances.
- D Roberto Puncec: Won five of six duels, including both aerial duels, in the first 45 minutes.
- D Nicolas Isimat-Mirin: Completed 57 of 61 passes at 93.4%, won all four of his duels and had a massive block on Michael Barrios’ shot in the first half.
- D Andreu Fontas: Had a game-high 10 clearances, led the team with 68 successful passes and won four duels.
- D Jaylin Lindsey: Had a team-high 12 duels, winning six, and had a game-high three fouls suffered.
- D Amadou Dia: Had two clearances, two recoveries and three duels won in the first half.
- M Remi Walter: Went a perfect 35-for-35 in passing, including 13 successful passes in the attacking half, while also winning four duels and making six recoveries.
- M Roger Espinoza: Had game-highs with nine recoveries and five aerial duels.
- M Gadi Kinda: Equaled Espinoza with a game-high nine recoveries and finished with 23 passes in the attacking half, most on the team.
- F Grayson Barber: Had team-highs in shots (two) and chances created (two) in his MLS debut.
- F Wilson Harris: Had one shot and created a scoring chance, partnering fellow Sporting KC Academy product Barber up top.
- M Cam Duke: Finished with 11 duels, one off the team lead despite only playing the second half.
- D Luis Martins: Won both duels and added an interception, a clearance and a recovery.
- F Alan Pulido: Had Sporting’s best scoring chance of the night—a shot that deflected off Lalas Abubakar and fizzed inches wide—and embarked on a superb solo run into the attacking half before winning a set piece.
- D Kaveh Rad: Relieved the injured Isimat-Mirin and chipped in with three duels, an interception, a clearance and a recovery.
- D Graham Zusi: Completed all seven passes and had three clearances in just 18 minutes, the second most on the team.
Post-match Press Conference: Manager Peter Vermes | Aug. 7, 2021
Taking inventory of this week’s road trip, Vermes will undoubtedly feel good about emerging with four points in daunting trips to LAFC and Colorado in the space of 72 hours. Sporting are now 3-0-1 in their last four away matches, boasting results against the second, third, fourth and seventh-place teams in the division.
“It’s always difficult to go on the road and get points and this year, we’ve done pretty well,” Espinoza said. “Coming here into altitude, and especially coming after the game in LA where the weather is a little bit hotter than here, and the fires are going out here in Colorado so you can feel the smoke, it’s not easy. With a different lineup, we were able to grind a point out and now we’ve got to go play in the Leagues Cup which is not easy either.
He continued: “The expectation here at Sporting Kansas City is to win everything that is in front of us. Now this game is over. We have to worry about Tuesday and get ready and get prepared and get healthy going back home.”
The match Espinoza alludes to is a high-stakes Leagues Cup quarterfinal clash against LIGA MX powerhouse Club Leon on Tuesday at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the 7 p.m. CT showdown are available at SeatGeek.com and the match will air live nationally on ESPN2 and TUDN. The winner will advance to the semifinals of the premier international tournament on Sept. 14 or 15.