CARSON, Calif — Results broke well for Sporting Kansas City over the weekend, and as a result they find themselves in first place in the Western Conference, as well as the first team out West to reach 30 points.
That they were able to get that big win on the road, checking off another box in their claim for legitimacy, gives them a strong case in the conversation for best team in the West. That it came against the LA Galaxy, a team they hadn’t beaten on the road since 2010, makes it even sweeter.
“I thought we’ve had a couple of games at home where we gave up a few points to where we should’ve gotten three, not one,” SKC head coach Peter Vermes said after SKC's 2-1 win over LA on Saturday. “Getting this game on the road makes up for a little bit of that. I thought we played very well in the game.
“I thought the fact that we scored early, they had a gameplan, they were sitting back and countering us … it made them rethink about what they wanted to do.”
Vermes was pleased with his defense holding on as LA turned up the pressure in the second half. In conceding only their eighth goal from open play this season — the lowest of any team in MLS — SKC continued to prove terribly tough to score on.
“The performances have been there multiple times on the road for us,” right back Graham Zusi said. “It’s just matter of sticking some balls in the back of the net. We’ve created chances in past games, but we’ve just been off here and there. [Saturday] I think it was another pretty complete performance on the road.”
Going into the contest, Sporting had been shut out in seven of their nine road games, so putting the ball in the net early on a 22nd-minute Roger Espinoza goal was an important confidence boost. SKC then got what turned out to be the match-winner from defender Ike Opara on a highlight-reel bicycle kick, but for him what was more important is that they converted their chances to improve to 2-4-4 on the road this season.
“I’m just more happy that we won,” Opara said. “We have created chances on the road, we just haven’t scored any goals. I think today we were able to get two and we could’ve had a third, or maybe even a fourth. We had some good opportunities and so I’m glad we were able to kind of break the ice and get a couple.”
It wasn't all sunny in LA though as Benny Feilhaber suffered a harsh tackle from the Galaxy’s Nathan Smith. If Sporting KC hope to keep winning on the road and remain in first place, they'll likely need the influential Feilhaber back as soon as possible. The Kansas City Star reported on Tuesday that the midfielder will not participate in Sporting's U.S. Open Cup match against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday and is questionable for their game against the Portland Timbers on Saturday (7 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US | MLS LIVE in Canada.
“He definitely hurt his ankle,” Vermes said. “I don’t know to what extent. But I’m going to tell you it’s not good at the moment. It’s not like he’s going to be okay tomorrow. It was definitely a very dangerous tackle. I thought the game was a strong fought game, but I don’t think it was a dirty game. I think that tackle, though, was over the line. Just that one.”