Balancing Act: Sporting KC spreading the scoring wealth in 2018 like never before

Sporting Kansas City's 5-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday certainly qualified as an offensive explosion, but it wasn't an aberration.

The 2018 MLS campaign has seen a balanced Sporting KC attack piece together one of the best scoring seasons in club history. Goals have flowed in steady bunches, and from numerous sources, both at Children's Mercy Park and away from home.

From a goals per game perspective, Sporting KC is currently enjoying its most prolific season ever. With 54 goals through 28 matches, the club is averaging an all-time best 1.93 goals per game. Vermes' side is seven goals shy of tying the regular-season team record of 61, set in 1996.

SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS PER GAME
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

# Season Goals Games Goals/Game
1 2018 54 28 1.93
2 1996 61 32 1.91
3 1997 57 32 1.78
4 2005 52 32 1.63
5 2003 48 30 1.60

In a deviation from recent years, Sporting KC has remained potent on their travels in 2018. The club has 24 goals through 14 road games, more than its total from 2016 (12 goals) and 2017 (10 goals) combined. Sporting KC needs to score five times over its last three away games to tie the club record of 29 road goals set in 2005.

SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS PER ROAD GAME
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

# Season Goals Games Goals/Game
1 2005 29 16 1.81
2 2018 24 14 1.71
3 2007 23 15 1.53
4 1997 22 16 1.38
5 2014 23 17 1.35

For a team commonly hailed for its defensive stinginess, Sporting KC's uptick in scoring has been a welcome development. A high-flying offense, combined with a consistently stout backline, has helped Sporting KC boast a goal difference of plus-20. That's the third-best mark in MLS, and if the season ended today, it would be Kansas City's best goal difference ever.

It's worth noting that Sporting KC's top two seasons for goal differential came in 2000 and 2013, the same years they were crowned MLS Cup champions.

SPORTING KC: BEST GOAL DIFFERENCE
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

# Season GF GA GD
1 2018 54 34 20
2 2000 47 29 18
3 2013 47 30 17
4 2012 42 27 15
5 2011 50 39 11

It would be unfair to attribute Sporting KC's offensive success to any one player in particular. Rather, the club has used a scoring-by-committee approach where balance and depth are the name of the game. Consider the following.

This is the second team in club history to have four players with seven or more MLS goals (2005).

Johnny Russell and Diego Rubio are tied for the team lead with eight, while Felipe Gutierrez and Daniel Salloi are close behind with seven each. Gerso Fernandes has five goals and could conceivably join this quartet by the end of 2018.

This is the second team in club history to have five players with five or more MLS goals AND five players with five or more MLS assists (1997).

In addition to the five players with five or more goals mentioned above, Sporting KC also has five players with at least five league assists. Leading the way is Roger Espinoza with his MLS career-high nine assists, followed by Russell's eight, Salloi's seven, Rubio's six and Fernandes' five.

This is the first team in club history to have 12 players with two or more goals, and the second team in club history to have 12 players with two or more assists (1998).

Even when opponents have managed to contain Sporting KC's primary attacking threats, several others have stepped up and stamped their name on the scoresheet. The table below shows all of the players who have recorded goals or assists during the 2018 regular season.

SPORTING KC 2018 MLS REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

Goals Assists
Johnny Russell 8 Roger Espinoza 9
Diego Rubio 8 Johnny Russell 8
Daniel Salloi 7 Daniel Salloi 7
Felipe Gutierrez 7 Diego Rubio 6
Gerso Fernandes 5 Gerso Fernandes 5
Ilie Sanchez 4 Graham Zusi 4
Graham Zusi 2 Yohan Croizet 3
Yohan Croizet 2 Ilie Sanchez 3
Khiry Shelton 2 Felipe Gutierrez 2
Jimmy Medranda 2 Khiry Shelton 2
Ike Opara 2 Matt Besler 2
Cristian Lobato 2 Seth Sinovic 2
Roger Espinoza 1 Jimmy Medranda 1
Krisztian Nemeth 1 Ike Opara 1
Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal 1 Krisztian Nemeth 1
    Gianluca Busio 1
    Jaylin Lindsey 1

Currently holding a one-point lead atop the Western Conference, Sporting KC (15-7-6, 51 points) will continue their playoff pursuit Sunday with a cross-conference visit to the Philadelphia Union (12-12-4, 40 points) at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. Kickoff is set for noon CT with national television coverage on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and local radio broadcasts on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.

All fans are invited to Sunday's official watch party at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, featuring $4 Bud Light drafts and an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic draft beers.

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