Sporting Kansas City secured the best start in club history Sunday with a 1-0 win against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Sporting KC, 4-0-0, survived a sleepy first half and pounced shortly after halftime to send Chivas USA, 1-3-0, to its third loss in three home games.
“Honestly, I don’t look at those things, so you’re asking the wrong guy,” manager Peter Vermes said of Sporting KC’s record start. “For me, I’m all about the performance and how we’re growing. At the end of the day, we came on the road and got a win, so we’re happy with the performance.”
Two minutes into the second half, Graham Zusi blasted a shot from just inside the 18-yard box, which Chivas pushed high off the crossbar.
But Zusi positioned himself for the short rebound and headed it back across the face of goal, where forward C.J. Sapong eased the ball into the net with his own header. It was the third goal this season for Sapong, the MLS rookie of the year last season, and the MLS-best fifth assist for Zusi, the reigning MLS breakout player of the year.
“It was a great pop from distance and both guys did a great job staying with the play,” Vermes said. “It’s always rewarding when you see guys stay alert and not giving up on a play like that, which leads to a goal.”
Barely six minutes later, Nick LaBrocca nearly knotted the game as he got free in the box, but his left-footed chip around Jimmy Nielsen, who had come well off his line to cut down LaBrocca’s angle, banged off the left post.
Chivas USA created additional chances in both halves.
Seth Sinovic took a yellow card for obstruction in the 34th minute on a possible breakaway by former Sporting KC midfielder Ryan Smith, whose speed threatened Nielsen and the defense throughout the match.
But that final finishing stroke proved elusive, especially for rookie Casey Townsend. He had the game-winning goal a week earlier against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, but couldn’t find the range against Sporting KC.
“That was their one really good chance in the game,” Vermes said. “We exposed ourselves and they played a great ball into the box, but at the end of the game when they were really pushing forward I thought we were solid. We were very good in the air and didn’t concede many chances.”