For the first time in nearly a month Saturday, the defending MLS champions looked like the defending MLS champions.
Sporting Kansas City broke a four-game losing streak — its first since May 2011 — with a convincing 4-0 victory Friday against Chivas USA in Carson, Calif.
Dom Dwyer set a new franchise record with his 19th goal of the season. Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi and Claudio Bieler all broke monthlong scoring droughts.
In other words, everything that could have gone right for Sporting KC pretty much did go right. And then some.
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But the slump-busting performance came against the worst home team in Major League Soccer — a Chivas club whose winless streak reached 10 matches Friday.
So is Sporting Kansas City’s slide really over? Or did it simply benefit from playing against an opponent on an even bigger slide?
Time will tell.
“It always feels nice to win, especially in the road. At the same time, it’s just one game,” defender Matt Besler told reporters after the match. “These three points don’t really mean much unless we follow it up the next game with another three points.”
In any case, there was a lot to like — some of which may supply an omen for the stretch run. Sporting KC returned to its staunch defensive form. It relinquished only one true scoring chance to Chivas, which didn’t even produce a shot on goal.
Keeper Andy Gruenebaum recorded his first shutout of the season and the team’s first clean sheet since June 27.
“I thought we did a really good job of locking the game down and not giving anything away,” coach Peter Vermes said. “Matt and Aurelien (Collin) were both very, very good — both defensively covering each other and they were both really smart and simple on the ball.”
Vermes said he sensed a more polished performance coming from his club after its effort in a loss against New York the week before. In a postgame teleconference, he insisted the team’s run of play during its losing streak isn’t the new norm.
“Let’s be frank. We’ve been a solid team for four years now,” Vermes said. “It would be easy for teams to give up in situations where they put their head in the sand. I don’t think our team has done that at all.
“I think we had a little bit of a (slump) at maybe a good time in the season for us to understand that when we play the way we’re supposed to (play) and we work hard on a regular basis, that’s when you’ll see the results. Sometimes that has to be reinforced in your brain.”
The losing streak cost Sporting KC its spot atop the Eastern Conference, but a victory Friday put the club back in the thick of the race.
Sporting KC moved within two points of D.C. United, the leaders of Eastern Conference. The two teams meet in Washington D.C. on Oct. 3.
“The guys have not panicked (and) that’s a credit to everybody involved in this team,” Besler said. “We’ve stuck with the system that we play, and we haven’t lost the goal of winning the (Eastern Conference). That’s our focus right now.”
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