The Full 90

The Leftovers: Sporting surging into playoffs

Updated: 2012-10-01T15:37:12Z

Charles Gooch

The Kansas City Star

Can you remember last time Sporting Kansas City lost a match? Wait, don't open a new browser window and hit up Google. I'll tell you.

It was July 28.

By my calculations, that's 66 days now without a loss. Over that span, KC is 7-0-3 -- including the win in the U.S. Open Cup Final.

Want an even more impressive stat to chew on? Over those last 66 days, Kansas City has allowed just five goals. On the season, Kansas City has an MLS-best 0.81 goals against average. Over the last 66 days, KC has 0.50 GAA.

So yeah, with just three matches left in the MLS season and the playoffs already clinched, Kansas City are rolling. But they can't stop now -- not when Chicago and New York are still on hot on their tails and the Supporter's Shield race is a scant three points. (San Jose drew over the weekend and sit on 61 points.)

Here are some more interesting facts, stats, news, notes and quotes following KC's 2-0 win over Chicago and New York.

• Sporting is now 17-7-7 with 58 points on the season and hold a five-point lead over Chicago in the Eastern Conference.

• The 17 regulation wins are a franchise best, topping the 2000 Wizards (16).

• The 58 points are also a franchise best, topping the 2000 Wizards (57).

• In 2000, it's worth repeating since it sounds good, Kansas City won the Supporter's Shield and the MLS Cup. It's almost not arguably the best year a sports franchise in Kansas City has had this millennium.

• KC's winning percentage (.661) is on pace to best the 1997 Wizards (.656).

• With the win on Friday, Kansas City became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff spot.

• The big match to watch this coming week that will impact KC's playoff spot: Chicago vs. New York on Saturday. A KC win and a draw in that match would guarantee that Sporting could do no worse than the second seed in the East. (Chicago has a game in hand.)

• Peter Vermes on reaching the playoffs again: "It absolutely was a goal, it's another one we check off at the bottom of our list. We're making our way up. The next thing would be to win the division so we have home field advantage through the playoffs if we're still fortunate to keep moving forward. So, if we're still in that position hopefully we can continue to keep the Supporters' Shield in our grasp."

BEHOLD THE POWER OF ZUSI

• KC's midfielder is having a really phenomenal season. You know that. But did you know that he's contributed to 48.7 percent of Kansas City's goals?* As that link shows, that number is higher than Thierry Henry (48.1%) and Chris Wondolowski (44.6%). Those are two of the leading MLS MVP candidates.

*Thanks to ESPN's senior researcher Paul Carr -- who I suspect has a tie or two to the region -- for coming up with that one. If you don't follow him on Twitter, you should. He's full of great soccer-specific stats.

• On Friday, Zusi picked up both goals for KC. He now has five for the season, matching his MLS best from last year. Both goals are worth re-watching again.

Zusi's run onto this ball -- not to mention the finish -- was absolutely clinical. This is the kind of in-the-box movement KC has been missing since Omar Bravo left.

The second goal wasn't nearly as impressive, but was just as clinical.

• Zusi's 14 assists are tied with Landon Donovan for the MLS lead.

• After the match, he talked about KC's immediate future. "In no way are we satisfied with just what we've done so far. We want to win the Eastern Conference, possibly make a shot at the Supporters' Shield and then make a run at the Cup as well."

'TREMENDOUS' DEFENSE

• Sporting Kansas City has not allowed a goal since September 14, posting three-straight shutouts.

• Vermes: "I can't say enough about the way that we defend, it's been tremendous. I mean, we have the least amount of goals scored against us in the League and that's a commitment to the way that the guys will compete for every roll on the field. You can say that, but it's another thing to do that, and you can watch the guys, they really do that. It's not just at home, but it's also away and that's a great attribute for a team to have, especially when you're going into the end of the season and into playoffs. "

• KC's defense held Chicago to just one shot on goal and marks the third time this year that Sporting held a team to just one shot on goal.

• Sporting leads the MLS in fewest goals allowed (25) and goals against average (0.81).

• How about some aerial dominance? Nobody has scored a headed goal on KC in the last 20 games.

THE GREAT DANE

• Jimmy Nielsen is the only Sporting KC player to have played every minute for the club this season.

• He's also started the most games (31) and played the most minutes (2,790) of any MLS player in 2012.

• His 1.04 career goals against average is the best regular-season mark in MLS history among 'keepers with 4,000 minutes played.

• His 0.81 GAA this season is on pace to best Tony Meola's 0.92 mark from 2000. (Oh, that season, Meola won Goalkeeper of the Year, MVP and MLS Cup MVP. No big deal.)

• One more thing: His 17 victories and 14 shutouts also lead MLS this season.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Sporting Kansas City is…

• … 9-3-4 at home in 2012.
• … 18-5-10 at Livestrong Sporting Park.
• … 14-2-3 when scoring the first goal in 2012.
• … 15-5-5 when outshooting an opponent in 2012.
• … 9-2-4 when the temperature is below 75 degrees at kickoff in 2012.
• … 9-5-4 in the Central time zone this season.
• … 11-5-5 against the Eastern Conference this season.
• … 14-6-6 on grass surfaces this season.
• … leading MLS with 509 shots this season and has allowed the fewest shots against (294).
• … 9-1-1 when leading at the half.
• … 14-6-6 when wearing Sporting Blue.
• … 11-0-3 when allowing zero goals this season.
• … undefeated in their last 18 matches when leading at the 75-minute mark.
• … 15-0-1 over the last 16 matches when they score 2 or more goals.

BIG NUMBERS

136 corner kicks for Graham Zusi, which leads MLS this season. The team's 185 corners are also tops in the league.

130 shots for Kei Kamara this season, tops in the league. Kamara trails Preki by 10 shots for the most in a single season in franchise history. He's 22 behind Mamadou Diallo for the most shots in a single season in MLS history.

Zero subs used by Peter Vermes on Friday, the first time in 12 years that Kansas City didn't make any changes during the match. It was the fourth time that happened in MLS regular season history.

.545 is the winning percentage for Vermes as KC's coach, the best of any coach in club history.

100 regular season games played for Matt Besler in his MLS career. He's the 22nd player to reach that milestone in a KC uniform and the third active player behind Roger Espinoza and Michael Harrington.

50 starts for Julio Cesar in his MLS career.

4,000 minutes played by C.J. Sapong in his MLS career and Seth Sinovic in his KC career. Both surpassed that mark on Friday.

37 of KC's 39 goals have come from inside the penalty area.

+14 goal differential for Sporting, tops in the East.

21,010 fans attended Friday's game, setting the all-time attendance record at Livestrong Sporting Park.

19,401 is the average attendance for KC this season. That's sixth in the league.

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