Sporting Success: It's about more than just the D
By ANNE M. PETERSON
Sporting Kansas City's defensive success isn't only the result of a stout backline and a talented goalkeeper, it's a whole team effort.
Coach Peter Vermes wants to make sure the credit gets spread around.
"Everyone always talks about the goalkeeper and the backline. Don't get me wrong, they're doing well. But it's really a team idea. When we don't have the ball, how do we win it back? How do we stay organized? How do we not unbalance ourselves?" Vermes said.
Sporting (3-0-3) has allowed just two goals this season, fewest of any Major League Soccer team. Kansas City is one of two undefeated teams in the league, along with this weekend's opponent, FC Dallas.
Sporting's latest victory came on the road against the Timbers, whose strength this season is a potent attack led by Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri with five goals apiece.
Dom Dwyer scored in the 53rd minute for Sporting and goalkeeper Tim Melia made three saves, including a crucial tip that sent Darlington Nagbe's strike from distance onto the crossbar and away from the goal in the 79th minute to preserve the victory.
It was Melia's league-leading fourth clean sheet and lowered his goals against average to 0.33, also best in MLS.
"We haven't played enough games to really talk all that much," Vermes said about Sporting's success. "It's because all the guys on the roster, we as a staff believe in them, I think they believe in what our model of play is and what we're trying to do. I also think there's a belief with them that they have to work hard. They have to think in the game, and they have to out-think the opponent. And finally, they have to outplay the opponent."
It was Vermes' 300th victory for Sporting across all competitions, and it moved the team into the second spot in the Western Conference, behind leader Portland and ahead of Dallas.
"Honestly we have a lot to work on," Vermes said. "We just have to keep improving."
Dwyer said the team's goals are simple: "Just remain undefeated. We're taking things one game at a time. So we just move on to next week's game and see where we go from there."
GAME OF THE WEEK: About that next game, it's the unbeatens on display when Kansas City visits FC Dallas (3-0-2) on Saturday. Dallas is winning with defense, too, allowing three goals this season, second only to Kansas City. The teams met earlier this season, playing to a 0-0 draw in Kansas City.
"The only two teams left that haven't lost - hopefully we're the last one standing," Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman said.
Dallas is coming off a 1-1 draw at San Jose.
BEST OF THE REST: The Cascadia Cup gets attention this weekend when the Whitecaps visit the Timbers on Saturday. Vancouver leads the three-way Cascadia Cup standings with three points following a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders last weekend.
The Cascadia Cup is a supporters-created trophy for the winner of the regular-season series between the three Pacific Northwest teams, based on points. The competition dates back to 2004, before the teams joined Major League Soccer.
HONORS: Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic was chosen the league's Player of the Week with a pair of goals in the Fire's 3-0 victory over the New England Revolution last weekend. Nikolic, signed as a Designated Player from Poland's Legia Warsaw in the offseason, has four total goals this season and has helped the Fire move into third place in the Eastern Conference.
ABSENCES: Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard will miss two more games after he was suspended for three matches and fined for two incidents in Kansas City two weeks ago. Howard allegedly used profanity directed at fans during the match, then got into an altercation with a fan afterward as he was leaving the field. The MLS Players' Union, while acknowledging Howard was wrong, called attention to what it believes were security concerns in Kansas City.
Meanwhile, MLS veteran Steve Birnbaum is unlikely to play for DC United on Saturday when the team visits the New England Revolution. Birnbaum sustained a concussion in a head-to-head collision with Red Bulls defender Damien Perrinelle late in the team's 2-0 loss in New Jersey last weekend.
And finally, Atlanta successfully appealed the red card given to defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez last week during a 2-1 loss to Montreal. Pirez will play in Salt Lake on Saturday. Teams are allowed two unsuccessful appeals to an independent panel each season, including the playoffs.
LAST WORD: Welcome to The Wall. No, it's not an ode to the Pink Floyd classic, but a standing-only section of Orlando City Stadium.
The section at the North side has a capacity of 3,811, and is primarily occupied by the supporters' groups, The Ruckus and Iron Lion Firm. It is named The Wall in a nod to Borussia Dortmund's famous standing terrace: The Yellow Wall.
The Wall is another special detail of the brand new stadium that hosts both Orlando City and the Pride, Orlando's National Women's Soccer League team. The club also honors the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre with 49 rainbow-colored seats in Section 12.
Updated April 19, 2017