KANSAS CITY, Kan. – They've needed some help from goalmouth clearances and the woodwork, but it's two matches into the regular season and Sporting Kansas City still haven't conceded a goal.
They haven't scored one yet, either, taking just two points from a pair of scoreless draws to open the campaign.
For now, at least, Sporting are taking the “glass half full” approach.
“I don’t think it’s hiccups at all,” manager Peter Vermes told reporters after Saturday night's draw against an FC Dallas side that held out several key starters – including center back Walker Zimmerman – ahead of Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League semifinal opener. “I don’t think that’s the right word. I think you have to realize how difficult it is when a team drops back within 40 or 50 yards of their goal and compacts the space, there’s not a lot of places to go in there. We even at times tried to drop off a little bit to let them come out a little bit, but they were very quick to get numbers behind the ball.
“But again, it’s something that, this early on in the season, you don’t expect to be firing on all cylinders when it comes to the attack side. As I said, the good thing for me is the fact that we have two clean sheets in a row and we really haven’t given away a lot, so we’ve got to keep building off that.”
Skill and possession haven't been the issues; on Saturday, Sporting held 68.4 percent of the possession and kept the ball in Dallas' half for most of the match. There's no dump-and-chase in this side, and a lot more buildup through the middle than in years past.
But of the 14 shots they took, only two were on target – and five got blocked by the visitors' collapsing defense. In total, the chances they created had an expected goals value of less than 1 according to data provided by Opta, the third-lowest total of a home team this season.
“We need to be a bit more patient with our buildup,” center forward Dom Dwyer told reporters. “We are still a bit antsy. But that’s just early season MLS. I was pleased with our side tonight. There are certain things we need to do better. We should have kept our tempo up a little bit more and kept them moving. I thought we had the better of them at one point, but it wasn’t to be."
Sporting – whose 42 regular-season goals in 2016 were tied for fourth-fewest in the league – are already facing questions about whether last year's pattern of dominating possession but struggling to turn that advantage into three-point outings is starting to repeat itself.
“We knew that we controlled the game - the tempo - but that’s gonna be the case most times when we play at home,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber after the Dallas match. “Most teams are gonna give us that possession and try to make it tough for us to break them down and they did a pretty good job of that. I thought in the first half we did a pretty good job of creating chances, even with guys behind the ball but in the second half I didn’t think it was as good.
“Of course, we still had some chances and I think we needed to be a little more clinical. But that’s the hardest part of the game and we’ll focus on it a little bit more to make sure those chances turn into goals."