Last year’s win against FC Dallas was a milestone victory for Sporting Kansas City for several reasons, but Sunday’s thrilling win against Schellas Hyndman’s Dallas club might signal something even more special.
The 4-1 win June 12, 2011, at Pizza Hut Park was Graham Zusi’s masterpiece — a two-goal, one-assist symphony that served as a coming-out party for Zusi, who would go on to be selected the MLS breakout player of the year.
It also was the first match to feature centerbacks Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler flanked by Chance Myers on the right and Seth Sinovic on the left in the starting lineup.
Additionally, that victory boosted Sporting KC, which improved to 2-6-4 at the time, from seven to 10 points in the season’s 12th game.
Part of those early struggles undoubtedly stemmed from a 10-game road stretch that opened the season, but already there is a much different tenor to the 2012 season.
Only three games into the year, Sporting KC, 3-0-0, has accrued the maximum nine points possible and sits atop the Major League Soccer table after dispatching FC Dallas 2-1 on the strength of Kei Kamara’s 88th-minute goal.
“I don’t think there’s another team in the league that’s playing to the level that they’re playing at right now,” coach Hyndman said after FC Dallas was handed its first loss.
Sporting KC has had at least 10 more shots than its opponent in all three games to date, which is among the myriad reasons it is safe to say coach Peter Vermes’ club has been the most dominant squad in the season’s first 15 days.
“Frankly, I really don’t know and I don’t care,” Vermes said. “For us, the most important thing is for us to be focused on what we do. If you spend too much time looking at your opponents, they start to pass you by.”
It’s a message Sporting KC’s players have taken to heart.
“It’s a little bit of a carryover (from last year), but it’s more about how we’re playing right now,” said Zusi, who leads MLS with four assists, including at least one in each game so far. “We’re very confident, and we have a team that didn’t change much from last year. We have a specific way we play, and that is carrying over from last year, and we’re better at that style. We’re playing very well right now, and we’re tough to beat.”
Maintaining that high level and playing with consistency from game to game is the drumbeat Vermes wants Sporting KC to march to as the season moves into a new month.
“Winning is a habit, and losing is a habit,” said Kamara, who now has scored in back-to-back games five times since joining Sporting KC in 2009 and leads the league in shots (24) and shots on goal (11). “If we can keep this habit, I would love it.”
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Sporting KC was that it took a shot in the mouth when Ricardo Villar chipped in a free kick during the 25th minute for a 1-0 FC Dallas lead, but the home side didn’t lose its composure.
“We were honestly better than them,” Collin said. “This was big proof of what we are right now — confident but at the same time fighting, but not crazy. Keeping the cold blood. I am very proud of this team tonight.”
The club is perfect through three games for the second time in its history and could start 4-0 for the first time ever with a win Sunday against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.
“It’s the sign of a good team that we didn’t play that well tonight, but we still found a way to win,” Besler said. “If we can find different ways to win each night, we’re going to get a lot of points.”