On a day when uncharacteristically hot temperatures swept across Norther California, the San Jose Earthquakes were stifled in their home stadium like never before.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw between San Jose and Sporting Kansas City saw the visitors dominate for extended periods at Avaya Stadium, but the all-important breakthrough goal remained elusive — a vexing albeit familiar storyline for Manager Peter Vermes’ men that was summed up by David Bingham’s last-minute save to deny Graham Zusi from close range.
Nevertheless, Sporting Kansas City occupies first place in the Western Conference halfway through the 2017 regular season. Their overall success has hinged on irresistible home displays and an impregnable defense that is on pace to set a variety of league records.
Sporting Kansas City’s suffocation of opponents was on full display Saturday, as the Earthquakes were held to just five shot attempts — their fewest all-time in an MLS regular season home match. In addition, San Jose's four chances created were their second-fewest in a home game since Opta began tracking the statistic for the 2010 season.
SJ EARTHQUAKES: FEWEST SHOTS IN MLS HOME GAME (ALL-TIME)
"There's a whole lot of positives to take from this game,” Zusi said after the match. “We came out and we controlled the tempo. We had the better chances of the game and it's a good performance. A point on the road is not easy to come by in this league. We're happy with a point, but today should've been three."
Indeed, a 13-5 advantage in shots, a 12-4 edge in chances created and 60 percent possession conveys Zusi’s beliefs that Sporting Kansas City should have emerged with a victory. But signs of encouragement are easy to point out — especially across the backline.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia tabbed his league-best ninth shutout on Saturday, setting his new regular season career-high with exactly half of the schedule still to play. Melia is on pace to break the single-season MLS shutout record of 16, set in 2000 by Kansas City’s own Tony Meola, and finish second in league history with a 0.65 goals against average.
Should Sporting Kansas City maintain its gaudy defensive form — and granted, there’s still a lot of soccer to be played between now and late October — the team has a realistic shot at breaking Real Salt Lake’s single-season record for lowest goals against average.
LOWEST GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE: SINGLE SEASON (GOALKEEPER)
Minimum: 1,000 minutes played
|0.62||Kevin Hartman||2010||FC Dallas||20||1755||12|
|0.65||Tim Melia *||2017||Sporting KC||17||1530||11|
|0.67||Nick Rimando||2010||Real Salt Lake||27||2430||18|
|0.73||Michael Gspurning||2012||Seattle Sounders FC||21||1845||15|
|0.76||Zac MacMath||2016||Colorado Rapids||17||1530||13|
|0.77||Donovan Ricketts||2011||LA Galaxy||15||1284||11|
* Season still in progress
LOWEST GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE: SINGLE SEASON (TEAM)
|0.65||Sporting KC *||2017||17||11|
|0.67||Real Salt Lake||2010||30||20|
* Season still in progress