Sporting Kansas City beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at Livestrong Sporting Park, becoming the first Major League Soccer team to open the season with five consecutive wins in regulation since the league’s inaugural season.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The Galaxy won their first 12 games in 1996, including the first nine in regulation, but no team since has started better than Sporting KC, 5-0-0, which has yet lose any half this season.
After a late first-half goal by Kei Kamara, Sporting continued its lock-down defense, which has only allowed one goal all season.
“We’ve got confidence and we know how to manage the games now,” said goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen, who didn’t face a shot on goal for the second straight game. “The way we play, our physical style of play, we can do that for 90 minutes now and we know that.
“We’re working from the first to the last minute in every single game. We do the simple things. We pass and we move and we run for each other.”
The Galaxy, 1-3-0, threatened to grab the early lead when Irish superstar Robbie Keane split a double team with a pass into the path of Mike Magee’s overlapping run, but Nielsen came off his line, cutting down the shooting angle and forcing a spinning shot well wide of goal.
“That was a warning,” Sporting central defender Aurelien Collin said. “Thank God they didn’t score, but we knew we had to be very focused with a player like Keane, who has a lot of experience and makes runs that are very dangerous.”
It would be the 20th minute before Sporting KC, which entered play averaging more than 20 shots per game, would have a rip at Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
Of course, once Sporting KC managed to open up the game, the Galaxy were overmatched to the delight of the 20,323 fans in attendance.
Left back Seth Sinovic floated a dangerous cross into the box for Collin in the 22nd minute. Three minutes later, midfielder Roger Espinoza worked over rookie defender Tommy Meyer at the left edge of the box and sent a cross that wound up at right back Chance Myers’ feet for a left-footed drive toward the near post, which Saunders pushed wide with a diving stab.
The breakthrough finally came in the 40th minute.
Forwards Bobby Convey and Kamara had been switching flanks repeatedly during the first half, but Convey found magic from the right side. He patiently worked the ball back and toward the center of the field, baffling the Galaxy’s defense before unleashing a gorgeous cross to Kamara from just outside the box.
“Kei and I switch a bunch,” said Convey, who picked up his first point with Sporting KC with the assist. “The guys on our team can all switch positions and play each other’s positions. That’s a great option to have in our attacking style.”
Convey’s pass floated over CJ Sapong’s head to Kamara at the back post, where Galaxy defender Sean Franklin got caught watching as Kamara headed the game’s only goal into the side netting at the far post.
“That’s something we’ve been working on,” said Kamara, who has three goals and is tied with Sapong for the team lead. “When the first ball is not in there, you’ve got to regroup your run and get back in there.
“The service was perfect. I knew when he was going in with his right foot that he wasn’t going to serve it. I knew he would cut back, but that’s what the guy can do. He can deliver a good ball — a lot of credit to him for that.”
Sporting KC, which finished with 14 shots, allowed only four — none on goal — and dodged another bullet in the 82nd minute when Chad Barrett rolled a shot for Keane a half-second early, resulting in a goal kick instead of the equalizer.
“Sporting played well today,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It was a very physical game and they really, on the day, did a better job in the battling department. They beat us on almost every header today and did a great job on second balls.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.