Sporting Kansas City's late-summer resurgence has coincided with the emergence of defender Graham Smith.
The 23-year-old center back has played every minute during a three-game winning streak that has Sporting within five points of the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and on Saturday he delivered perhaps his best performance yet.
MLSsoccer.com took notice, selecting Smith to the MLS Team of the Week for the first time after he spearheaded a 1-0 shutout victory over the Houston Dynamo and assisted Johnny Russell's early game-winner with a lovely cross from the endline.
In addition to recording his first MLS assist, Smith completed 63 of 68 passes, won five duels, and recorded team-highs with four clearances and two blocked shots. His resolute defensive display at Children's Mercy Park helped Sporting push its shutout streak to 245 minutes dating back to a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 17—the same game in which Smith opened his professional scoring account with the match-winning goal.
"I thought Graham Smith was phenomenal tonight with the amount of shots he blocked," Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia said after the match. "We still have a long way to go but we’re on the right track. We’re winning at home. We’re being really difficult to break down. And now we have a really important and really difficult task coming up against Portland."
Indeed, Melia, Smith and Sporting (10-11-7, 37 points) will put their shutout and winning streaks on the line Saturday when they visit the eighth-place Portland Timbers (12-11-4, 40 points) in a monumental Western Conference clash at Providence Park. Kickoff is slated for 9:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO.