The sun finally poked through the clouds right before kickoff of the standing-room-only Sporting KC-LA Galaxy game which, to the dismay of many females in attendance, did not feature David Beckham.
In fact, Beckham didn’t even make the trip to KC as he is currently sidelined with an injury.
Straight away KC was looking to get forward, creating a half chance in the first minute. It became apparent quickly that LA, just like Chivas and Dallas, have taken notice of physical KC striker CJ Sapong and decided to do the only thing they can to slow him down.
Namely, grab him, hold him, and generally foul the shit out of him early and often.
After the initial burst of energy to start the game, both teams settled in. Sporting looked especially patient and calculated, knocking the ball around the back and keeping possession before picking the right times to attack.
At the 25 minute mark, Chance Myers almost scored his first ever MLS goal (yet again) after Roger Espinoza sneakily crossed his defender over on the end line. Chance got the garbage ball that popped out and forced LA keeper Josh Saunders into a nice diving save.
Moments later, KC wildman Aurelien Coillin showed his fearlessness and flew into a tackle at the top of KC’s penalty area, saving a clear chance from a rushing Galaxy winger.
And so it went, back and forth, for most of the first half with KC holding a distinct advantage in possession and chances.
In the 41st minute, after possessing and building methodically for several minutes, Sporting finally found the back of the net off one of the prettiest setups in recent memory.
Bobby Convey earned his first points in Sporting Blue by delivering the assist, a perfect left footed bender that found Kei Kamara wide open at the back post. Kei met the bender and directed a sweet header into the opposite side netting, leaving no chance for Saunders, and putting KC up 1-0.
Five minutes later, when the ref signaled halftime, LA already looked tired, unable to get the numbers advantage going forward. Probably due in part to KC’s possession advantage, which stood at 62% to LA’s 38% heading into the locker rooms.
The second half was more of the same, with KC dominating in pretty much every aspect of the game. They knocked the ball around effortlessly and beautifully while LA struggled mightily just to piece together any semblance of cohesion.
Zusi and Espinoza might as well have been four men out there as they patrolled the midfield, scrapping and winning everything that came their way. And they’ve gotten so comfortable and compatible with each other that it doesn’t even matter that Bobby Convey disappears at times in the run of play. To do what they’re doing, their fitness levels are simply world class.
Even KC boss Peter Vermes took notice, saying afterwards, “Those guys were solid, I have to say. Those guys were very, very solid, especially on the second balls today. I thought there was no doubt, over the course of 90 minutes, we dominated the second balls in the midfield.”
That’s about the highest praise that Vermes is capable of, so take that for what it’s worth.
Though LA did put together a bit better possession toward the end of the second half they never even attempted a shot on goal. For the entire game.
Think about that.
LA is the defending MLS champ and many pundits favor them to repeat. They feature one of the most potent one-two scoring duos in the league in Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Not to mention Edson Buddle and Juninho. And they couldn’t get a shot on target for over 90 minutes.
Even White Puma Jimmy Nielsen took the opportunity to recognize how well the defense is playing. “Shots on target: Zero, in the whole game, again,” said Nielsen. “That’s pretty impressive. The guys in front of me are making my job very easy.”
Even more impressive, this is the second game in a row KC’s foe has failed to put even a single shot on target.
Do you think Matt Besler was right when he told me during preseason that "It’s huge" having the same back line returning for 2012? Umm, yeah. Huge might be an understatement.
LA’s frustrations grew and grew as the final minutes ticked by, with Donovan cheap-shotting Kei to earn a yellow card as the sturdy KC winger shielded the ball in the corner.
All in all, a very impressive performance by Sporting Kansas City. Though they only scored the one goal, their flow was probably the best I’ve ever seen it, other than the last 10 so minutes that saw KC content to just boom the ball out of their defensive end. It was a little curious to see them do so after holding the ball so nicely for 90% of the game, especially when they only led by one goal.
The win puts the boys in blue at 5-0, a feat that has only been accomplished two other times in MLS history.
When the final whistle blew, the chiseled Sapong and Collin ripped off their jerseys and sprinted for the Cauldron, tossing the sweat-soaked souvenirs to a frenzied fan base that might still be singing and dancing as you are reading this.