Beyond The Box Score presented by Compass Minerals

Beyond the Box Score presented by Compass Minerals: Early bird Johnny Russell helps Sporting into MLS is Back Tournament Knockout Stage

"Beyond The Box Score" is a weekly series presented by Compass Minerals that takes a statistical dive into every Sporting match, bringing to light the intriguing numbers and factoids that don't appear in the typical box score. To visit the series archive, click here.


Sporting Kansas City were early to rise and early to strike on Wednesday morning, dispatching rivals Real Salt Lake by a 2-0 scoreline to secure a top-two finish in Group D of the MLS is Back Tournament at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The most important takeaway from the routine performance is the fact that Sporting, currently atop the Western Conference standings, has advanced to the MLS is Back Tournament Knockout Stage presented by Audi and will take the field for a Round of 16 encounter at either 10 p.m. CT Sunday or 7 p.m. CT Tuesday, depending on Minnesota United FC's result against the Colorado Rapids this evening.

But before casting our eyes on the highly anticipated knockout rounds of this historic and unprecedented competition, there's plenty for Sporting fans to revel in after Manager Peter Vermes' men ousted RSL for their first regular season win in the series since 2017. For starters, Sporting will be just one point off the Supporters' Shield lead when Major League Soccer's 2020 regular season resumes later this year. Their 13 goals scored and plus-8 goal differential are, at the time of this publishing, the best marks in MLS.

SPORTING KC: MOST GOALS THROUGH FIRST FIVE MATCHES OF A REGULAR SEASON

Goals Season Goal differential Season Outcome
13 2020 +8 ?
12 2019 +7 Missed playoffs
11
11
11
1996
2000
2003
-2
+8
+2
Lost in Conference Finals
Won MLS Cup
Lost in Conference Finals

As for Wednesday's match in particular, it was only appropriate that the earliest kickoff time in club history—9 a.m. in Florida and 8 a.m. in Kansas City—was immediately followed by one of Sporting's quickest goals ever. A mere 49 seconds after kickoff, Johnny Russell found the back of the net to give his side a 1-0 lead and enter the record books as the fourth-fastest Kansas City goal scorer in a regular season match. His right-footed effort marked the fifth time Sporting had scored in the first minute, and the first such occasion since 2013.

EARLIEST GOALS IN SPORTING KC REGULAR SEASON HISTORY

Time Player Date Opponent Result
0:33 Davy Arnaud 08/22/2003 vs. Colorado Rapids T 2-2
0:36 Scott Sealy 09/09/2006 vs. Colorado Rapids W 4-1
0:41 Chance Myers 04/27/2013 vs. Portland Timbers L 2-3
0:49 Johnny Russell 07/22/2020 vs. Real Salt Lake W 2-0
0:50 Ryan Pore 09/03/2005 at NY/NJ MetroStars T 2-2

Additionally, Russell etched his name into elite company as one of five players in Major League Soccer to register 20 goals and 20 assists in the regular season since the start of 2018. The others to do so? LAFC star Carlos Vela, Portland talisman Diego Valeri and Houston Dynamo duo Alberth Elis and Darwin Quintero.

PLAYERS WITH 20 GOALS & 20 ASSISTS SINCE 2018
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Player Club Goals Assists Games
Carlos Vela LAFC 50 28 61
Diego Valeri Portland Timbers 21 29 67
Alberth Elis Houston Dynamo 22 20 58
Darwin Quintero Houston Dynamo
Minnesota United FC
21 20 57
Johnny Russell Sporting Kansas City 20 20 63

Sporting weren't finished, however, although supporters were made to wait until the 86th minute for the goal that put RSL away for good. Just two minutes after entering as a substitute, Gerso Fernandes unfurled a left-footed beauty into the far corner for his first goal of the season. As soccer statistician Paul Carr pointed out, the superb strike culminated a 17-pass, 56-second sequence in which all 11 Sporting players on the pitch touched the ball.

Mexican striker Alan Pulido assisted both goals on Wednesday to continue his red-hot start to life as a Sporting player. Pulido's seven combined goals (three) and assists (four) are the second-most in the league, and his active run of five straight appearances with a goal or an assist is the longest in MLS this season.

MOST COMBINED GOALS & ASSISTS IN 2020
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Total Player Club Goals Assists Minutes
8 Diego Rossi LAFC 6 2 360
7 Alan Pulido Sporting Kansas City 3 4 442
6 Alejandro Pozuelo Toronto FC 1 5 423
5 Ayo Akinola Toronto FC 5 0 266
5 Lucas Zelarayan Columbus Crew SC 3 2 324
5 Jordan Morris Seattle Sounders FC 3 2 336

LONGEST STREAKS WITH A GOAL OR AN ASSIST IN 2020
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Games Player Club Dates
5 Alan Pulido Sporting Kansas City 02/29/2020 to present
4 Diego Valeri Portland Timbers 03/01/2020 to present
3 Diego Rossi LAFC 03/08/2020 to present
3 Khiry Shelton Sporting Kansas City 03/07/2020 to 07/17/2020
3 Gyasi Zardes Columbus Crew SC 03/07/2020 to 07/16/2020
3 Chris Mueller Orlando City SC 03/07/2020 to 07/14/2020
3 Kevin Molino Minnesota United FC 03/01/2020 to 07/12/2020

Offense wasn't the only name of the game on Wednesday, as Sporting posted its first shutout in the MLS is Back Tournament. After serving a red card suspension in last week's 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids, goalkeeper Tim Melia returned between the posts and pushed his active shutout streak to an MLS-best 316 minutes dating back to opening day on Feb. 29.

LONGEST ACTIVE SHUTOUT STREAKS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Minutes Player Club Dates
316 Tim Melia Sporting Kansas City 02/29/2020 to present
257 Zac MacMath Real Salt Lake 03/70/2020 to 07/22/2020
199 Stefan Frei Seattle Sounders FC 03/07/2020 to 07/14/2020
191 Eloy Room Columbus Crew SC 03/07/2020 to present
190 Steve Clark Portland Timbers 03/01/2020 to 07/13/2020

With a well-earned morning victory in the bag, Sporting will now play the waiting game before learning their placement in the knockout stage bracket. If Minnesota fails to beat Colorado tonight at 9:30 p.m. CT, Sporting will finish first in Group D and face the third-place finisher from Group B, E or F at 10 p.m. CT on Sunday in the Round of 16. If Minnesota defeats Colorado, Sporting will finish second and meet Supporters’ Shield leaders Columbus Crew SC in the Round of 16 at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday.

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