Aug 25, 2018; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi (8) battles for the ball with Minnesota United FC forward Angelo Rodriguez (9) during the first half at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports
Sporting Kansas City notched its fourth consecutive shutout win Saturday against Minnesota – the first time ever that the franchise has collected four straight shutout wins. Here are three things we learned from Saturday’s 2-0 win:
This team is hitting its stride at just the right time
For a stretch of the summer, things looked rough for Sporting. It was giving up goals left and right, with six straight matches from late June through July allowing multiple goals. Players were dropping like flies, from injury and suspension.
Now, it’s a whole different story heading into the stretch run of the season. Kansas City is the winner of four straight, scoring eight goals unanswered during the win streak.
“Now that we got those guys back (from injury) and we got fit and we added a couple more guys in the window and it’s creating more competition in the team, I think it’s the difference,” manager Peter Vermes said. “Hopefully that continues.”
The defense has found its footing
Kansas City’s defense – long the staple of the franchise – was in question for a stretch this summer. It was allowing multi-goal games. The team was losing.
But this year’s defense is finally getting back to the level that the franchise is used to. Sporting hasn’t allowed a goal in the entire month of August, and finally has a full squad back after several injuries.
And Tim Melia – reigning Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year – is as solid as ever. He saved eight shots Saturday, the second-most of his career.
Still, no one is getting too excited.
“Confidence, yes,” Melia said. “But when we were not doing well defensively, we weren’t jumping out of a plane, and because we’re doing okay now we’re super ecstatic about it. It’s still a lot of games left.”
Diego Rubio has been on another level this month
It’s not just Sporting’s defense that has hit its stride in August. Rubio has also had his most successful month of the season this month, and only added to that Saturday with a goal in the 62nd minute.
That makes for three goals Rubio has scored this month (out of seven shots. That scoring flurry from Rubio has come amidst his team scoring eight unanswered goals during its four-match win streak. He’s also added an assist this month.