Following a 2-0 defeat in the season opener game to New York City FC at home on March 4, it was evident that Sporting Kansas City needed immediate improvements to start the season.
But after a stunning 4-3 win last Saturday against the Chicago Fire, Sporting KC demonstrated that change was not far off. Chicago’s three goals in a 12-minute span was answered by Sporting's own dual goal effort in the next four minutes, thereby avoiding a disastrous start to an eager 2018 campaign.
With high aspirations for the season, the defending Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion looks to expand its award collection and re-welcome the MLS Cup back to Kansas City, after four consecutive early exits in the knockout round.
A .500 start was not ideal, however, Sporting KC assured its fans that it is back on track after avoiding the club’s first two-loss start since the 2009 season when then team was known as the Kansas City Wizards and finished third from bottom of the table that season.
Sporting was able to finally incorporate its new additions to the team, with three of its goals on Saturday coming from midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez and forward Johnny Russell. Midfielder Yohan Croizet also made his debut and demonstrated his vast potential in the MLS.
However, even two games into the seven-month long season, there is still noticeable room for improvement.
Last season, the team demonstrated its top defensive skills, allowing a league-low 29 goals. But this season, that is where solutions need to be addressed the most.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia, last season’s MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, has not allowed five goals in two games since the 2015 season, his first season with the club. Alas, a defense that includes the likes of national team members Matt Besler and Graham Zusi and the 2017 MLS Defender the Year Ike Opara is expected to perform at the highest level, and rightfully so.
The other highlight the club needs to address is effectively integrating all of its attacking components on the team, including the new additions from the winter and rising young forwards Gerso Fernandes and Daniel Salloi. When the team combines all that it has to do offer it can do marvels — such as on Saturday when the team scored four goals in one game, something it hasn't done in the last three seasons.
As Sporting looks to improve on its scoring, where it was third from last in the Western Conference last season, it can only hope that its high-profile defense can return to the high levels it performed at during the 2017 season.
— Edited by Margo Johnson