KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Peter Vermes never thought another Major League Soccer team would put together the kind of start that the Los Angeles Galaxy accomplished during the league’s inaugural season.
There were only 10 teams back in 1996, and hardly the same level of parity. Travel schedules were less taxing, the talent pool much shallower and the spotlight hardly shined as brightly.
The Galaxy won their first eight games in regulation, and their first 12 overall, setting a standard for excellence that for 15 years went unmatched. When Sporting Kansas City takes the pitch against Portland tonight, it will do so with a chance to make history.
The club has won its first seven games in regulation, one shy of the Galaxy’s record.
“I don’t know if you ever think it’s going to happen,” said Vermes, who played for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars during that inaugural season and is now Sporting KC’s manager.
Sporting KC will have to win for the third time in eight days to achieve the milestone. It knocked off Real Salt Lake before heading on the road, and then beat Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday night for its fifth straight win over the Western Conference.
The success is hardly surprising given the way Sporting KC finished last year.
Playing in a glittering new stadium, the franchise came on after a miserable start to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the MLS Cup semifinals. The young squad lost 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo, but it gained valuable experience and generated plenty of momentum that has carried into this season.
Kei Kamara leads the league with 36 shots, including 16 on goal. Jimmy Nielsen has the most wins (all seven) and shutouts (five) of any goalkeeper. The team has allowed only two goals this year, and has gone long stretches without even allowing a shot on goal.
“They really worked in the offseason and they put themselves in a great position, a great situation,” Vermes said.
Thousands have been filtering into Livestrong Sporting Park, which has become a hip, new destination for sports fans. A sellout crowd of 20,323 showed up to watch a game against the Galaxy a couple of weeks ago, nearly outdrawing a Royals baseball game across town the same night.