In many ways, Sporting Kansas City’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday felt extra sweet.
A gutsy performance away from home — highlighted by Roger Espinoza’s thunderous (and slightly fortuitous) strike and a sublime overhead kick from the colossal Ike Opara — resulted in Sporting Kansas City’s first road win against the Galaxy since 2010 and gave Manager Peter Vermes’ side a five-point cushion atop the Western Conference table.
A few ominous statistics shrouded the matchup heading into Saturday, with LA unbeaten in eight straight games and facing a Sporting Kansas City outfit that had failed to score in seven of nine road fixtures this season. Despite routinely tearing opponents to shreds in the confines of Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting KC had found away wins tough to come by in 2017.
Fast forward two hours, though, and Vermes’ men had collected three massive points in what has historically been one of the most difficult venues to play in Major League Soccer. And in the grand scheme of a 2017 regular season that has been overly dominated by home teams, Saturday’s win may just have been the biggest of Sporting KC’s season so far.
The club now stands at 2-4-4 on the road in 2017, good for 1.0 points per away game. Despite the club’s recent struggles on their travels, that clip is still good for sixth in MLS and third in an ultra-competitive Western Conference that boasts numerous hostile venues.
ROAD POINTS PER GAME: 2017 MLS SEASON
|New York City FC||1.44||4-4-1|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||1.00||2-4-1|
|Atlanta United FC||0.90||2-5-3|
|San Jose Earthquakes||0.88||2-5-1|
|New York Red Bulls||0.75||2-6-0|
|Columbus Crew SC||0.67||2-7-0|
|Orlando City SC||0.63||1-5-2|
|Seattle Sounders FC||0.56||1-6-2|
|Real Salt Lake||0.40||1-8-1|
|New England Revolution||0.33||0-6-3|
|Minnesota United FC||0.25||0-6-2|
The table below sheds further light on the unique home-and-away dynamic that has defined 2017 so far. Acknowledgements are due to ESPN’s Paul Carr, who compiled this data in early June to illustrate how home-field advantage is becoming more and more pronounced in MLS.
HOME POINTS PER GAME: MLS HISTORY
NON-SHOOTOUT ERA (2000 - PRESENT)
Given the home-friendly climate of the current campaign, Sporting Kansas City will be feeling less worried than most about their away form — especially given the dominating nature of Saturday’s first half and the entirety of a 0-0 draw at the San Jose Earthquakes one week earlier.
What ultimately proved pivotal in Saturday’s triumph was Sporting Kansas City’s ability to score first and score early. Consider the following facts:
- In each of the club’s nine road wins since the start of 2015, Sporting KC has scored the first goal. In 19 of the club’s 22 away losses since the start of 2015, Sporting KC has conceded the first goal.
- Sporting KC has scored a first-half goal in seven of its last 27 regular season away games, going 3-1-3 in those matches. In the 20 matches Sporting KC has failed to score a first-half road goal, the team is 2-12-6.
One final statistical nugget that paints an encouraging picture for Sporting Kansas City moving forward? The club owns victories this season at Providence Park and StubHub Center, becoming just the second team in MLS history (2012 Real Salt Lake) to win at Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy in the same season.