By luck or pluck, defense quietly making history for SKC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Through their first 16 seasons, two home-stadium moves and a pair of name changes, the club now known as Sporting Kansas City managed to hold opponents without a shot on goal three times.
They've already matched that number this season alone, most recently in last weekend's 1-1 home draw against New York, in which the Red Bulls' score came on an own goal by Sporting's Kei Kamara.
The other two occasions came in 1-0 victories over Chivas USA on April 1 and the LA Galaxy on April 7, part of a team-record 345-minute streak of not allowing a shot on frame.
But while the backline is proud of this year‘s accomplishments, Sporting's defenders don't claim all of the credit for them.
"A lot of it's luck, to be honest with you," center back Matt Besler (above) told MLSsoccer.com after Wednesday's training session. "Some of it's good defense, but it all comes down to luck, really. We still allowed three shots [against New York]. The shots just weren't on target. Looking back at the LA game, they had one or two breakaways where they just hit it wide. That doesn't count as a shot on goal, but it was still a chance for them."
And when they do acknowledge the team's hard-nosed defensive work, Sporting's defenders deflect a good deal of the praise for that forward.
"That game against New York, everybody was dialed in and our pressure when they were on the ball was unbelievable," Sinovic said. "Maybe a few times they strung some passes together, but the midfielders and the forwards were really putting the pressure on early and making it easy on the back four."
That just comes with the territory in Sporting's high-pressure 4-3-3 setup, center forward C.J. Sapong said.
"We still have a young group up top," he said during Wednesday's news conference. "Speaking for myself, it was a little tough recognizing certain situations. Sometimes teams come with different mentalities and different strategies, and it's important to be able to think on your feet and be able to switch up your defensive style. I think we've done a really, really good job of that."
So does manager Peter Vermes.
"I think our defense is really solid, but I think it's solid because of the pressure that starts from the top," Vermes said. "When those guys are putting the pressure on up top, it makes the game predictable for the guys behind. I'm not minimizing their contribution, but it's a team effort in the way we defend."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.