Sporting Kansas City grinds out a a victory to stay atop the MLS table

HARRISON, N.J.—As far as Peter Vermes is concerned, Sporting Kansas City needed a game like this.

Under siege for much of the 90 minutes, Sporting Kansas City showed their steely resolve in picking up a 2-0 road victory over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. Sporting KC conceded 22 shots in the match, but their defense held firm – even after losing two players to injury – and their attack capitalized on their chances.

It was not the prettiest of performances by any stretch, but an effective one that Sporting KC, now 4-1 on the year, can learn from.

“We needed to get into a game where the opportunity was to defend and then counter someone,” Vermes said. “A lot of teams that we play, they wind up sitting back on us. It’s sort of like a puzzle wrapped up in a conundrum, and we’re trying to figure out how to break it.

“Tonight was good for us because it was a different type of game. I thought we at times did really well, especially in the second half.”

Kansas City were under pressure at Red Bull Arena from the onset, but were able to open the scoring in the 17th minute when Benny Feilhaber punctuated a deadly play in transition. Dom Dwyer then struck at the hour-mark with a strong turn and finish that gave Sporting KC some room to breathe.

Still, the Western Conference club needed goalkeeper Tim Melia to turn in some heroics in order to preserve the lead and result. Melia made six saves on the night, including one on a Bradley Wright-Phillips penalty kick in the 64th minute that could have swung momentum in the Red Bulls’ favor.

“It’s almost not surprising to us anymore because [Tim] does it so much,” said Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi. “He’s just a monster back there.”

With Saturday’s shutout victory, Sporting KC have the best overall record at this early juncture in the season. They also have some more confidence about the manner in which they can prevail in matches.

“It’s good because I don’t think we play too many games like this, the way we played,” Feilhaber said. “It’s good to know that we can win grinding it out and sitting back and maybe not being on the front foot as much as we are usually at home.”