Even though Kansas City won a trophy for its regular-season triumphs in 2000 (the Supporter's Shield), a very convincing case can be made that this was the most successful regular season for the club.
The Kansas City Star
That case can be made using mostly facts: Sporting Kansas City set season records for most points in a season (63), most regulation wins* (18), highest winning percentage (.662), fewest goals allowed (27), fewest goals allowed at home (12) and most shots taken (542).
*In 1997, Kansas City won 21 games but Major League Soccer didn't count ties back then and shoot-out victories were considered wins.
Kansas City also won its first piece of silverware (The U.S. Open Cup) since 2004 and for the first time in franchise history repeated as its conference's number one team.
For good measure, the club's average attendance was 19,404 -- also a franchise record.
So, yeah, this was a great season. I'd call it the best regular season in franchise history personally -- it had everything but the Supporter's Shield.
Now, onto the playoffs.
But first, let's recap the relevant news, notes, quotes, facts and stats from last night's 2-1 win over Philadelphia -- as well as some interesting final regular season numbers.
• The final record for the season: 18-7-9, 63 points.
• Only four teams in MLS history have earned more than 63 points in a season: The '12 San Jose Earthquakes (64), '11 Los Angeles Galaxy (67), '05 Earthquakes (64) and '98 Galaxy (68).
• Livestrong Sporting Park was sold out (or better) 16 of the team's 17 home games. That includes the current streak of 15-straight capacity crowds.
• Sporting Kansas City will enter the playoffs for the second-straight year as Eastern Conference winners. With that comes home-field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
• Peter Vermes on the team's success this season: "It was a great effort by the boys to do this two years in a row. It's not easy. It's a consistency from the players. It's a standard of excellence that they've set, and to do that you also have to continue to be able to do it in big games. And I think tonight again, this was a big game. This was a big opportunity. Everyone else was watching, they're waiting to see what the result is, and at the end of the day, it's over. They're just fighting for their spots, and no one can overtake us. It's a good place to be."
• If Sporting Kansas City reaches the 2012 MLS Cup, they will have the right to host if the San Jose Earthquakes do not reach the final.
• This is the fifth time in club history ('97, '00, '04, '11, '12) that Kansas City finished atop its conference.
• This is only the second time that Kansas City has won the Eastern Conference. (The previous three were all as part of the Western Conference.)
Regular Season Potpourri
• KC finished atop the East in wins (18) and goal differential (+15).
• Sporting scored 42 goals -- tied for fifth best in the conference. However: Kansas City allowed just 27 goals, easily the best mark (by 12 goals!) in the East.
• Ten players scored for KC this season -- Kei Kamara (11), C.J. Sapong (9), Graham Zusi (5), Teal Bunbury (5), Jacob Peterson (4), Aurelien Collin (3), Bobby Convey (1), Paulo Nagamura (1), Oriol Rosell (1) and Julio Cesar (1).
• For the season, Sporting scored two or more goals 13 times.
• In the first half, Sporting scored 24 goals, while just conceding 12.
• Kansas City also scored first in 21 of its 34 matches and led at halftime in 13.
When Sapong Scores, Good Things Happen
• C.J. Sapong picked up the game-winner last night in the 82nd minute for his ninth goal this season. That's a career high for him.
• The goal was his fifth game-winning goal this year, tying Preki's record in '97 for most in a single-season for the club.
• Sapong scored the first and last goal of the regular season. Here are both of them.
• That run on the goal last night? That's exactly the kind of development I've been looking for this season for Sapong. If Kansas City's central forwards (Sapong and Teal Bunbury) lack one thing, it's making the instinctive off-the-ball runs across the defense into space. I hope Vermes and Kerry Zavagnin take Sapong aside at the video session and say "Yes, please, more of this."
• When the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year scores, Kansas City are (wait for it) 13-0-2. That includes playoffs.
White Puma for President
• While Jimmy Nielsen didn't get the MLS shut-out mark* (he finished with 15), he had a stellar campaign as Kansas City's captain and goalkeeping mainstay.
*It's shame that he had to lose the shut-out record on a rebound off a saved penalty kick.
• He won 18 games, tying Kasey Keller ('11), Donovan Ricketts ('10) and Pat Onstad ('05) for most regular-season wins in the non-shootout era in MLS history. (That doesn't sound nearly as impressive as it is.)
• Nielsen's career 1.02 career goals against average is the best for any MLS 'keeper with a minimum of 4,000 minutes played.
• Not surprisingly, that's also the best mark in Kansas City club history.
• Nielsen played every minute of KC's regular season, recording 77 saves and posting a 0.79 goals against average.
• His 0.79 GAA breaks Tony Meola's mark of 0.92 set in 2000 -- when Meola only won the regular season MLS MVP, Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS Cup MVP awards.
• Nielsen has played in 5,310 straight minutes of MLS action (including playoffs).
The Stout Defense
• While KC's defense didn't help Nielsen set the MLS shutout mark, they still closed out a pretty impressive season -- including an impressive 27 goals allowed in 34 games.
• When Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic star, KC is 24-2-8 all-time.
• When Besler starts this season, KC is 17-5-8.
• An opponent hasn't scored a header off Kansas City in MLS play for 63-straight matches.
Big Numbers, Kei Kamara Edition
• Kamara finished the season with 134 shots, the most in the league this season and third-most in MLS single-season history. Only Preki (140 in '96) and Mamadou Diallo (152 in '00) had more.
• Kamara not only put in a team-leading 11 goals, he pitched in with 8 assists -- including two last night.
• He's responsible for 19 of KC's 42 goals. Only one player on the team has a better mark
Big Numbers, Graham Zusi Edition
• Graham Zusi finishes with 5 goals and 15 assists -- as of right now, he's one assist ahead of Landon Donovan for the MLS lead.
• Zusi has contributed to 20 of KC's 42 goals this season.
• Zusi also leads the league in corner kicks with 150 -- the most by a KC player in club history and the third-most in MLS history (Brad Davis had 172 in '11 and Marco Etcheverry had 198 in '98).
• Not coincidentally, KC led MLS with 199 corners this year -- also a club record.
• Kansas City is unbeaten in their last 12 MLS matches, good for the longest undefeated streak in MLS this year and ties for the second-longest in club history.
Shots! Shots! Shots! Every-body!
• Take a drink, The Full 90 is writing about shots again.
• Sporting KC led MLS with 542 shots this season, a club record.
• They also allowed the fewest shots against in club history with 328. (The previous record was 514 in '96.)
• Sporting Kansas City leads MLS in all-time shots taken with 7,191.
• Midfielder Paulo Nagamura had to leave in the 33rd minute with an ankle strain.
• According to Vermes: "He just turned his ankle a little bit. I think he just made the decision that 'it's probably best for me to get out.' And I think it was the right decision at the end because when he was getting ready to get back on, I said 'Hey look if you feel anything, just get off. We can put somebody else on no problem.' I'm going to let the [trainers] check it out, but the great thing is we've got 10 days. He's a tough dude.
• The other injured KC midfielder, Roger Espinoza, was left out of the gameday roster. Vermes: "He had two days of training but it wasn't enough. Now he has the rest of this weekend, and into next week. He's got a good lead up into the game, and I think he'll be ready to go."
Miscellaneous Game Notes
• Jacob Peterson, a late first-half sub for the injured Nagamura, scored the first goal of the match. It's his fourth this season, which matches his career high.
• It was his first goal since July 14.
• Put simply, it was an absolutely clinical finish.
• I don't think I'm the only one that has noticed that Peterson gives a mathematically impossible 345 percent on nearly every play. If there was a stat that counted the number of times a player sacrificed his body for the good of his team, I'm sure Peterson would run away with it.
• Seth Sinovic started and played in his 50th regular season match for his hometown team.
• Julio Cesar started his 50th match for KC too.
• Peterson Joseph suffered four fouls on Wednesday -- a single-game career high. Also: He was electric in the first half; the sole bright spot for about 20 minutes of action.
Sporting Kansas City
outshot their opponents in 27 out of 34 matches in 2012.
• is 16-5-6 when outshooting their opponent in 2012.
• went 3-1-1 on the NBC Sports Network in 2012 and 15-6-6 on KSMO-TV this season.
• is 15-7-7 in games after 5 p.m. CT this season.
• is 9-5-3 when the temperature is when the temperature is above 75 degrees at kickoff in 2012.
• is 10-5-4 in the central time zone this season.
• is 13-5-4 when making three subs in 2012.
• is 9-0-1 when scoring two goals in 2012.
• is 10-1-2 when leading at halftime in 2012.
• is 7-2-4 when allowing one goal in 2012.
• went 12-5-7 against the Eastern Conference this season.
• is 15-6-8 on grass surfaces this season.
• is 15-6-7 when wearing Sporting Blue in 2012.
• is 6-2-7 when tied at the 75-minute mark in 2012.