KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City keep making history. The LA Galaxy keep waiting for something to go right for their beleaguered defenders.
Kei Kamara exploited the defending MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield champs’ backline struggles with a diving header late in the first half, and Sporting improved to 5-0-0 — the best start for any team since 1998 — with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.
LA started that season with nine wins in a row. That was in the shootout era, when matches could not end in draws, but only the first of those nine victories came in a shootout. This year, they’re off to a 1-3-0 start and have been outscored 8-5 through four matches.
Sporting have four shutouts in five outings, meanwhile, and have outscored opponents 8-1. On Saturday, Jimmy Nielsen faced only three shots and didn’t have to make a save.
The Galaxy got Landon Donovan back from a quadriceps injury that kept him out of last week’s 3-1 home loss to New England, but were without David Beckham for the first time this year. The LA captain stayed home to recuperate from a nagging series of knocks that forced him to come off the bench against the Revs.
Playing before a standing-room-only crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park, KC came out pressing hard against a Galaxy defense that had already given up seven goals through three league matches. Sporting had 68 percent of the possession in the first half, but didn’t get a shot off until Graham Zusi fired high from just outside the arc in the 20th minute.
Galaxy ’keeper Josh Saunders had to dive to his left to deny Chance Myers his first MLS goal in the 23rd minute, but there was nothing he could do to prevent Kamara’s goal after getting hung out to dry by his backline.
Convey, working on the right wing as Kamara made one of his periodic shifts to the left side, worked into space against Todd Dunivant and sent a cross toward the six-yard box. Kamara — leaving right back Sean Franklin flat-footed three yards behind him — dove and buried the ball just inside the right post to give Convey his first assist with his new club.
On the other side of the ball, Sporting stymied the Galaxy’s potent forward tandem of Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle.
Keane, who leads LA with three goals, didn’t get a shot off all day — although he came close in the 82nd minute, when he was alone at the back post but couldn’t get to Chad Barrett’s through ball. Buddle had an even quieter day — he was lifted for Barrett in the 57th minute and twice got cleaned on textbook tackles by center back Aurélien Collin.
Mike Magee had two good chances for LA, firing wide on a counter in the 7th minute and shooting just outside the left post in first-half stoppage time, but was unable to break up Nielsen’s clean sheet.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.