Oriol Rosell walked into the visitor’s locker room in Montreal on Saturday — thoroughly spent after helping Sporting Kansas City get a 3-0 win against the Impact — and received some good news.
Rosell was a new Major League Soccer record holder. Actually, he suddenly owned a few of them.
In Saturday’s victory, Rosell executed the top passing performance since the league began tracking statistics in 2011. He completed 160 of 166 passes — both records — while also totaling 174 touches, another league-best mark.
Not a bad day’s work.
“I was grateful when you walk into the locker room and they say you beat a new record,” Rosell said. “We played really well. We had the possession all the time. We had the consistency to keep the ball, and I think this is the way we have to prepare for the games to try to do it again.”
Rosell put together a standout performance in a match full of them. Sporting KC also broke the league passing mark for a team, completing 739 passes and shattering the previous record of 566. That was Sporting’s own mark, which it set last November in a home playoff game against New England.
Those are simply numbers, of course, but players and coaches believe the statistics speak to a larger indication of the team’s level of progression this season as Sporting KC plays host to Philadelphia at 7:30 tonight at Sporting Park.
“It’s a culmination of the last four years of evolving as a team to get to this point,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. It takes “a level of patience, a level of tactical awareness and a level of discipline.”
Sporting KC, 5-2-2, is often branded a physical team, but a passing performance like Saturday’s exhibits its ability to possess the ball, too — a style of play they hope to emulate over the remainder of the year.
“I don’t think anybody inside that locker room is resting on their laurels or thinking we’ve arrived, because we haven’t,” Vermes said. “We’re constantly evolving and trying to get better at what we try to do. Sometimes that’s based on players that get added to the team, and sometimes that’s based on the development of the players that we have here. “It’s our growth as a team and the way we want to play.”
The goal is for repeat performances, and Rosell will be a central figure in achieving that objective.
As a defensive midfielder, he’s about to shoulder even more responsibility. Because center back Matt Besler, along with Graham Zusi, are playing in their final match with Sporting KC tonight before joining the U.S. national team for as long as two months, Rosell’s role takes on heightened importance. He is responsible for protecting the final line of defense while also kick-starting the offensive attack in the game’s transitional moments. “It’s obvious that (Matt) is a very good player. In his maximum level, he’s giving us a lot of potential,” Rosell said. “I think we’ll miss him, but this is a team, and we have a lot of good guys that can do the job. We have the confidence they are going to do it well.”
PHILADELPHIA UNION AT SPORTING KC
• WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 tonight at Sporting Park
• TV/RADIO: KMCI (Ch. 38); WHB (810 AM)
• ABOUT PHILADELPHIA (1-5-5): The road has not been kind to the Union, which is winless in six matches away from home. Philadelphia will carry a club-record, nine-match winless streak into Sporting Park.
• ABOUT SPORTING KC (5-2-2): There will be an expected sense of urgency to get a result before the club loses Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to national-team duty. On the flip side, Sporting KC expects to welcome back wing player Sal Zizzo after he missed two matches because of a groin strain.
• BOTTOM LINE: After emphasizing better production at home this season, Sporting KC is 3-0-2 in its first five matches at Sporting Park. It has allowed only one goal in five home matches.
• PREDICTION: Sporting KC, 2-0