MLS Focus: New players bring new confidence to surging Sporting Kansas City

One of this year's early surprises in MLS has been Sporting Kansas City, which opened up a three-point lead atop the Western Conference thanks to a 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy.

Strong starts aren't new from Sporting Kansas City. It's now opened with 12 or more points after its first six games for three straight seasons. The win over the Galaxy extended SKC's unbeaten run to five games and gave it 13 points with a 4-1-1 record.

It got another big game from Tim Melia, the 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, with 10 saves, including a fingertip stop on Ashley Cole's shot to deflect it into the post in the 43rd minute and keep the match scoreless heading into the break.

What has been different about Sporting KC this season has been its attack. There were concerns when Dom Dwyer was traded to Orlando City in the middle of last season and Benny Feilhaber and Latif Blessing went to expansion LAFC in the offseason.

MLS top scorer Felipe Gutierrez (five goals in five games) missed the Galaxy match, but goals from Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell, who was celebrating his 28th birthday, in the second half at StubHub Center give Sporting KC 12 goals through Week 6, second in MLS behind Atlanta United. Last year, it averaged less than 1.2 goals a game to rank 19th out of 22 MLS teams in scoring.

Head coach Peter Vermes has been starting a frontline of Khiry Shelton, acquired from NYCFC in the offseason, between the 21-year-old Salloi, a Hungarian youth international who came to Kansas City as an exchange student and acquired Homegrown status, and Russell, a Scotsman who came from England's Derby County.

“I think it is a couple of things," Vermes said of the scoring surge. "I think it is new players. I think there is a level of confidence within the group. I also think we are creating very good chances, which are high-caliber chances. But at the end I don't want to say that they are easy but they are easier to score, and I also think that we are very hungry in and around the box.”

Russell, who also assisted on Salloi's goal, has been the revelation. His decision to leave Derby County with the Rams in the Championship promotion race was a surprise back in England. He was a regular Derby so he was fit when he came into camp.

"We have been trying to keep the ball, which has been key this week, especially with some of the heat that you play in," the Scotsman said after the Galaxy game. "So if you can keep the ball for large periods of the game, you are going to do well. I think once we got our chances we took them well as well.”
3 comments about "MLS Focus: New players bring new confidence to surging Sporting Kansas City".
  1. John Soares, April 9, 2018 at 6:30 a.m.

    Just a few days ago, some were ready to give Zlatan an MVP award....if not raise a statue. So where was he today?Blaming the other 10 players. Seen it, heard it before.

  2. beautiful game, April 9, 2018 at 10:27 a.m.

    This Galaxy performanc is vintage effort mediocre...purpose of play mediocre...efficacy mostly missing. Game plan from start to finish unaddresseed. As for SKC performance, solid all around. Time to give serious thoughtn about Vermes for National Team Coach. He is no nsense about player attitude and performance. As for J.S. comment about Zlatan, what were your expectations of "Z" when the bulk of the team underperformed. Watching too many MLS games is a recipe for pointing fingers.

  3. Ric Fonseca, April 9, 2018 at 10:23 p.m.

    Ho boy!!! After reading the two comments above, I couldn't help but to have a good and long chuckle, because both missed the mere fact that the game was a factor of coming down drom the "heavenly-win-cloud" over the LAFC last weekend.  So, what was it Ibra blaming the other ten players when he was inserted into the game?  The Carson galaxy's "vintage effort mediocre...(sic) etc." So were you IwN in the locker room and very privy to the Carson Galaxy's game planning and pre-game talk?  I expected a more spirited game from both sides, however, I also saw very poor individual Carson Galactic defending on both KC goals.  Oh and btw, I had to look twice, nay thrice in trying to identify el Suzy, without all the hair!!!So?  PLAY ON, I SAY, my men, PLAY ON!!!

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