The Full 90

Sporting Kansas City finally finding its footing in Western Conference

Sporting KC teammates Matt Besler (above), Connor Hallisey (22) and Krisztian Nemeth (9) pile onto Graham Zusi after Zusi scored the fourth goal against Dallas on Friday, May 29, 2015, at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Sporting KC teammates Matt Besler (above), Connor Hallisey (22) and Krisztian Nemeth (9) pile onto Graham Zusi after Zusi scored the fourth goal against Dallas on Friday, May 29, 2015, at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. Special to the Star

After struggling out of the gate — and dealing with a raft of injuries — Sporting Kansas City is back on the right track three months into the long Major League Soccer campaign.

Though far from the finish line and playoff security, KC is starting to find the form that many (or, at least, some) felt would eventually arrive.

Fresh off a seven-point stretch (against three of the league’s top teams no less) that featured two four-goal games (both at home), Kansas City finds itself near the top of the table again — tied for third-place in the West with FC Dallas and Los Angeles (with 2 fewer games played than the Galaxy). Going by points-per-game, KC is currently tied for fourth in the whole league (with Dallas) at 1.62 per game, behind only Seattle (2), D.C. United (1.79) and Vancouver (1.64).*

*KC’s record against those four teams: 1-1-2 with two road draws against Seattle and D.C. In fact, over the toughest stretch of the season, Peter Vermes and company went 2-0-2 against D.C., New England, Seattle and Dallas.

Kansas City finally looks like the team many thought would challenge for a playoff spot in the highly-competitive Western Conference.*

*Though, it’s worth noting, the victory over Dallas last Friday was KC’s first over a Western foe in 2015 — overall, a record of 1-2-4 against the West.

Despite the early-season struggles (and the high-number of draws), Vermes’ squad is just about where it’s been points-wise after May the last four years.

2012: 8-3-1, +7 goal differential, 25 points

2013: 5-5-4, +4, 19

2014: 5-5-4, +5, 19

2015: 5-2-6, +6, 21

Of course, success on June 1 isn’t necessarily a guarantee of success on Nov. 1. Despite a nearly identical record in 2014, last year ended with an early playoff loss.

But the resilience shown through an injury crisis by Kansas City has been a positive that Vermes and his coaching staff can build upon. The team has also been bolstered by strong performances from two of its rookies, Connor Hallisey and Amadou Dia, Benny Feilhaber continuing to turn in an MVP-like season and a star turn from newcomer Krizstian Nemeth.

There’s a lot to build on for KC going forward.

But, even three months in, it’s still early and the summer is fraught with potential pitfalls.

June and July will bring about a new series of challenges with the U.S. Open Cup starting (Sporting KC hosts St. Louis FC on June 16 at Sporting Park), a series of international friendlies that could pluck key players (as of right now, only Krizstian Nemeth will miss time this weekend with Hungary) and the Gold Cup looming (with several players potentially out of pocket for the month of July).

The league schedule doesn’t let up either with the league-leading Seattle Sounders coming to Sporting Park this Saturday. Following that, Kansas City has a home match with cellar-dwelling Colorado (June 27) bracketed with Soccer Sunday road trips to Real Salt Lake (June 21) and Vancouver Whitecaps (July 12).*

*The schedule does have two bye weeks coming up: June 13-14 and July 4-5. So, that’s nice.

Here are a few numbers to ponder before the long slough of summer hits. Some are a bit eye-popping.

Kansas City has …

▪  the fewest losses in the league with just 2.

▪  scored the most goals, 21.

▪  the second-most goals scored at home (13), behind just Columbus (15).

▪  an undefeated record at Sporting Park.

▪  the second-most draws in the league, tied with New England and Los Angeles at 6.

▪  the second best overall goal differential with +6, behind Seattle (+10).

Perhaps most impressive, given how difficult KC found scoring goals to be early this season, is this stat by our friend Paul Carr at ESPN.

What a weird season this has been.

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