"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's narrow 2-1 defeat to Orlando City SC on Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park wasn't void of silver linings.
For starters, Manager Peter Vermes' men remain within a point of first place in the remarkably congested Western Conference table, which sees just six points separating co-leaders Seattle and Portland and the 11th-place Houston Dynamo. All 12 teams in the division are squarely in contention for not only one of the eight playoff spots awarded at season's end, but a finish at or near the top of the standings.
Secondly, Sporting Kansas City's fan-favorite Scottish international is a man in sizzling form.
Johnny Russell, who was named the club's offensive player of the year in 2018 and 2019, looks destined to be among the frontrunners for the award this season, as well. His 53rd-minute header in Wednesday's contest took his team-leading goal tally to six in 2020 and set the stage for a frantic final half-hour in which Sporting fell short of finding an equalizer.
After bagging the winner in a 1-0 result against Minnesota United FC on Sept. 13, notching a brace in last Saturday versus FC Dallas and finding the net last night versus Orlando, Russell has accounted for each of Sporting's last four goals.
Incredibly enough, the 30-year-old has become just the fourth player in Sporting Kansas City history to score four or more consecutive goals for the club in the regular season. The first three to accomplish the feat were prolific strikers Eddie Johnson, Kei Kamara and Dom Dwyer, who did so in 2007, 2010 and 2014, respectively.
SPORTING KC: MOST CONSECUTIVE GOALS BY A SINGLE PLAYER
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|6||Eddie Johnson||05/26/2007 to 06/02/2007|
|5||Dom Dwyer||05/10/2014 to 05/23/2014|
|4||Kei Kamara||04/10/2010 to 05/29/2010|
|4||Johnny Russell||09/13/2020 to 09/23/2020|
Russell's three-match scoring streak also compares favorably to the rest of MLS this season. He is one of 14 players to score in three straight regular season fixtures this year and has the opportunity to become the first to find the net in four consecutive matches when Sporting takes the field again.
Russell, Montreal winger Romell Quioto, Portland Timbers midfielder Yimmi Chara and Chicago Fire FC striker Robert Beric are all amidst active scoring streaks of three games.
LONGEST SCORING STREAKS IN 2020 MLS REGULAR SEASON
|3 *||Johnny Russell||Sporting Kansas City||09/13 to 09/23|
|3 *||Romell Quioto||Montreal Impact||09/13/ to 09/20|
|3 *||Yimmi Chara||Portland Timbers||09/16 to 09/23|
|3 *||Robert Beric||Chicago Fire FC||09/12 to 09/23|
|3||Gyasi Zardes||Columbus Crew SC||03/07 to 07/16
09/06 to 09/19
|3||Bradley Wright-Phillips||LAFC||07/13/ to 07/23|
|3||Khiry Shelton||Sporting Kansas City||03/07 to 07/17|
|3||Jeremy Ebobisse||Portland Timbers||07/13/ to 07/23|
|3||Diego Rossi||LAFC||03/08 to 07/18|
|3||Chris Mueller||Orlando City SC||03/07 to 07/14|
|3||Raul Ruidiaz||Seattle Sounders FC||07/19 to 08/30|
|3||Felipe Mora||Portland Timbers||08/29 to 09/06|
|3||Cristian Pavon||LA Galaxy||08/29 to 09/06|
|3||Franco Jara||FC Dallas||09/12 to 09/19|
* Denotes active scoring streak
If Russell finds the net in his next game, he will join Preki, Dwyer, Johnson and Felipe Gutierrez as the only Sporting players to score in four straight regular season appearances. He has already become the second member of Sporting to strike in three consecutive matches this season, following in the footsteps of fellow forward Khiry Shelton.
SPORTING KC: LONGEST GOAL SCORING STREAKS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)
3 (two times)
|Dom Dwyer||4 (two times)
|Miklos Molnar||3 (two times)||2000|
3 (across 2 seasons)
|Kei Kamara||3 (across 2 seasons)||2009-2010|
In addition to preserving his own scoring run, Russell helped sporting set a new club record on Wednesday. Sporting has now found the back of the net in 13 straight games to start a regular season, eclipsing the team's previous all-time bests set in 2003 and 2008.
LONGEST SCORING STREAKS TO START A REGULAR SEASON
(SPORTING KC HISTORY)
While Russell's form—and Sporting's impressive run of goal scoring—will be compelling narratives to follow as the campaign continues, the forward made it clear Wednesday after the match that winning is the only priority for a Sporting side that has taken five points from its previous seven games.
"For me personally, I’m getting goals which is my job for the team," Russell said. "It’s just frustrating when we play so well at times and just silly errors and mistakes we make leave us clawing back into games. From a personal point of view, I want to score goals but if we’re not winning games that means absolutely nothing to me."