It had been a while since Sporting Kansas City endured the bitter taste of defeat — 77 days, to be exact. But as all streaks inevitably do, the club's 13-game unbeaten run ended in a 1-0 setback at Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday.
Clint Dempsey headed home in the 36th minute at sunny CenturyLink Field to pull the Sounders level with Sporting Kansas City atop the Western Conference table. In doing so, Seattle snapped a pair of long-running droughts against Manager Peter Vermes' men, who were less than 72 hours removed from a grueling U.S. Open Cup semifinal win over the San Jose Earthquakes that required 120 minutes plus penalty kicks.
Entering Saturday, the reigning MLS Cup champions had gone winless in six straight regular season meetings with Sporting Kansas City, managing just two draws and a single goal during the 540-minute stretch. For the first time in six tries, Seattle also found away to beat Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia, who came into the game with a 4-0-1 record and five shutouts versus the Rave Green. Dempsey's first-half goal broke a 363-minute regular season scoreless spell in the series, just nine minutes shy of what would have been Seattle's longest goalless drought against a single opponent.
Seattle's longest winless streaks vs. single opponents
(MLS regular season)
Real Salt Lake
|05/23/15 to 05/17/17
10/28/12 to 10/19/14
09/10/11 to 06/22/13
San Jose Earthquakes
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
|10/18/15 to 03/04/17
04/12/15 to 07/31/16
08/02/14 to 09/12/15
07/06/13 to 10/10/14
|4||San Jose Earthquakes
|03/31/12 to 03/23/13
04/18/09 to 08/14/10
Seattle's longest scoreless streaks vs. single opponents
(MLS regular season)
|371||Real Salt Lake||09/10/11 to 03/30/13|
|368||Chivas USA||04/18/09 to 10/15/10|
|363||Sporting KC||09/27/15 to 08/12/17|
|259||NE Revolution||06/30/12 to 03/08/15|
|245||Toronto FC||04/04/09 to 10/02/10|
Reflecting on his team's first loss since May 27, Vermes offered an equitable take on a performance that ultimately lacked incisiveness up top.
"I think we put the effort in. The game came down to one chance," he said postgame. "They scored and we weren’t very dangerous in the attacking third. We lacked a little bit of a final push. We’re just mentally and physically tired.
Sporting KC's longest unbeaten streaks in all competitions
|13||06/03/17 to 08/09/17
08/04/12 to 10/24/12
|12||03/25/00 to 05/27/00
05/25/11 to 07/09/11
|10||06/05/04 to 07/24/04|
|9||08/23/00 to 09/29/00|
|8||06/21/08 to 07/27/08
04/25/15 to 06/16/15
Despite the loss, Saturday's result wasn't completely void of encouragement. Holding midfielder James Musa, who signed for the club from the Swope Park Rangers just 24 hours earlier, delivered a solid MLS debut over the course of 90 minutes. His addition adds depth and versatility to a Sporting KC squad that prepares for the stretch run of 2017, highlighted by the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Sept. 20 and a tight race for top spot in the West.
Musa finished the match leading all players in touches (84), passes (78) and successful passes (68) while also winning two duels and making two interceptions.
"I thought he was calm and cool in the game, and the moment never got to him," Vermes said of Musa. "I thought his positioning was good. He was good on the ball; he was confident. I actually think he had a really good game."