Sporting Kansas City's early season swoon is officially in the rearview mirror. If wins over Montreal and D.C. didn't convince you of it, then their 1-0 win at the New York Red Bulls has to have you believing, or at least as much as one can believe in a Peter Vermes team.
Kansas City rode a 13th minute goal by Aurelien Collin to victory with another great defensive effort. The strength Collin showed in holding off Jamison Olave and heading home a corner kick was tremendous, but it was the fifth consecutive clean sheet that really stands out for KC.
The last time a team scored on Sporting was way back on March 9, but this phenomenal defending is just a continuation of what the team did a year ago. Last season, Sporting allowed just 27 goals, best in MLS and 14 goals fewer than any other team in the Eastern Conference. Collin teams with Matt Besler for one of the best centerback pairings in the league and while there was an adjustment period early in the season as Sporting dealt with Roger Espinoza's departure, Oriol Rosell is looking more and more comfortable in the position each match.
Rosell showed again today just how good he can be, winning five tackles and intercepting four Red Bulls passes to go along with two clearances and eight recoveries. Meanwhile, he was tidy on the ball with nine unsuccessful passes, many of them long attempts as he tries to add a bit more to the attack, which is still lacking at times.
Of course, Sporting's defense is very much a full team effort. They pressure high and win the ball back right away, starting with the forwards up top. Combined with how well they keep the ball, their back line isn't faced with a lot of pressure unless opposing teams are exceptionally good at the back and clever through the midfielder.
New York is neither.
Once again, the Red Bulls' defense was shaky as Olave struggles to find his old form, while Roy Miller and Brandon Barklage are an adventure at fullback. They aren't much better through the midfield either, which got a boost from Thierry Henry, who dropped deeper tonight, but Tim Cahill continued his disastrous season, while Eric Alexander failed to make an impact.
The onus is still very much on Juninho to make the Red Bulls midfield go and against Sporting, he couldn't do it. The only thing he really did make waves doing was kicking the ball senselessly at Jimmy Nielsen, which earned him a deserved red card.
It's back to the drawing board for the New York midfield. Meanwhile Kansas City is flying high.