Cup hangover? What Cup hangover?
By Charles Gooch
The Kansas City Star
Just three days after winning the U.S. Open Cup (for the second time in franchise history), Sporting Kansas City took care of business against D.C. United. And, in the process, rocketed back to first place in the Eastern Conference.
Here are the relevant facts, stats, notes and quotes from Saturday's 2-1 win over United.
• Kansas City improved its record to 13-7-4 on the season, good for 43 points and sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.
• Only the San Jose Earthquakes (14-5-5, 47 points) sit above Kansas City in the race for the Supporter's Shield -- and home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup playoffs.
• Peter Vermes on the performance: "I'll start and say that after Wednesday night's win, this was a mature performance for us tonight. It's easy to be a little complacent and maybe still have a little bit of a hangover from that game, but the commitment by the team tonight was incredible. For me, the win Wednesday was great, it was a championship and everything, but the performance tonight says so much about this group of guys when they step on the field. I commend the guys for their commitment for the 90-plus minutes, because it was a tremendous effort."
• 1.79 points per game this year for KC. That's second only to San Jose (1.96).
• San Jose also owns most of the new tie-breaker rules: Most total goals (47 to 30), goal differential (+18 to +8), road goals (19 to 16), road goal differential (+4 to +2), home goals (28 to 14) and home goal differential (+14 to +6).
• So, there's still a lot of chasing to be done if San Jose and Kansas City continue to win.
• "It's just a good step in the right direction in pursuit of our goals in front of us," Vermes said about being in first place with 10 games remaining. "Next week, we keep playing a bunch of Eastern Conference teams and it's going to be important for us to continue on this same vein. We'll get after the next one but we're in a good position now to keep the pressure on everyone else."
• Kansas City's 13 wins equals that of last year's Eastern Conference winning campaign.
• The modern franchise record (post-2002) for wins in a season is 14 in 2004.
• The franchise record for most wins in a season is 21 in 1997 -- but that was a 10-team league with shootouts.
• Kansas City are just the third team to win 13 games in 2012 and the first team in the Eastern Conference to reach that mark.
• After such a congested schedule during June and July (18 games across all competitions in 68 days including a whopping 8 in July), the schedule eases up quite a bit the next few weeks.
• There are just six matches over the next 41 days -- a home-and-home with New York (Aug. 26 at LSP, Sept. 19 in New York), a home-and-home with Toronto (Saturday at Toronto, Sept. 1 at LSP), the last regular season match with Houston (Sept. 14) and a trip to Montreal (Sept. 22).
• No. Midweek. Game. This. Week.
• There are only 10 matches remaining this season.
• Enough about the standings, let's get into the player/coach-specific items.
• Peter Vermes managed his 100th MLS regular-season match for Kansas City on Saturday. He's now tied with Ron Newman for second-most in team history.
• Defender Aurelien Collin made his first appearance since suffering two facial fractures in the MLS All-Star Game on July 25. His protective mask last just a few minutes.
• Two players had notable matches: Serbian defender Neven Markovic made his first start in his MLS career while Spanish midfielder Oriol Rosell made his MLS debut as an extra-time substitute.
• Rosell will wear #20 and has just "Uri" on the back of his kit.
• Local midfielder Michael Thomas made his first MLS start at Livestrong Sporting Park. His yellow card in the second minute of the match is the earliest yellow issued in a KC match this year.
• Teal Bunbury scored his fifth goal of 2012, his first at home.
• Bunbury: "[Graham] Zusi tries to whip it in near post and I'm always the one usually who tries to make the first post run. I was just trying to lose my guy and it's pretty rare when I score with my head, so I was pretty happy about that. It's my job to put balls in the back of the net and the guys, we all worked for this, so tonight I'm really excited about that."
• Sporting KC is 13-1-4 in MLS competition when Bunbury scores.
• Graham Zusi snagged a goal (his third this year) and an assist (his 10th).
• The assist came off a corner kick, the fourth-time this year that KC has scored off a corner kick. It was also the ninth headed goal of the year.
• 148 corner kicks this year for KC. That leads the league. Zusi also leads the league with 100 corner kicks taken.
• Kei Kamara picked up his fifth assist of 2012 on Zusi's goal.
• Kamara is one of nine players with five or more goals and assists in 2012. The others: Chris Wondolowski, Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Patrice Bernier, Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Dwayne De Rosario and Brad Davis.
• That's an impressive list. It's amazing to think that Kamara has never been an All-Star.
• Vermes made four changes from the Open Cup match starting lineup: Michael Thomas replaced Julio Cesar in the midfield, Collin (suspended for the Open Cup final) took over from Lawrence Olum, Markovic replaced the injured Seth Sinovic and Michael Harrington gave Chance Myers a breather.
• KC were without four key players on Saturday: Myers (groin strain), Sinovic (right ankle sprain), Jacob Peterson (shoulder sprain) and Bobby Convey (hamstring).
• Defender Matt Besler: "Good teams find a way to win every game. I think it was a tough challenge coming back from Wednesday's emotional win, but tonight's performance shows that we're old and mature, and we're right there with the best. Tonight didn't feel like a let-down at all. We're playing for first place. After New York won (last night) they jumped ahead of us, but we came into tonight knowing first place was in our hands if we took care of business. We came out, played really well and didn't let them have a lot of space. We were all over them and it was a very complete performance from each of us."
• Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is the only KC player to appear in every regular season match so far. Logically, he's the only one to play every minute thus far.
• Harrington has now logged 11,453 minutes in his Kansas City/MLS career. That puts him at 10th all-time in club history.
• He surpassed former Wizard Josh Wolff, who played 19 minutes for D.C. United on Saturday as a second-half sub.
• Before Saturday, Sporting hadn't scored two goals at home since a 2-0 win over Toronto on June 16.
• Sporting KC is 11-2-2 when scoring first this year and 6-2-3 when tied at half.
• KC has scored 11 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches in 2012.
• Kamara still leads the league in shots (92) and shots on goal (36).
• Kansas City still leads MLS in shots (387) and fewest shots allowed (245).
• 20,439. That's the second largest crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park this year and the 11th sellout.
Lightning Round! Sporting Kansas City is
6-5-2 when the conditions are above 75 degrees in 2012. It was 85 degrees at kickoff.
• 11-6-4 when wearing Sporting Blue uniforms this season.
• 7-5-2 when playing in the Central time zone this season.
• 11-6-3 when playing on a grass field.
• 2-0-1 in August in all competition and moves to 33-39-12 all-time in MLS action during the month of August.
• 7-5-0 in games decided by one goal in 2012.
• 11-5-2 when outshooting an opponent in 2012.
• Thought you guys would like to se a photo of the north wall at Livestrong.