Sporting KC hopes to continue hot offensive start against D.C. United’s porous defense

Sporting Kansas City sits tied atop the Western Conference table thanks to an offensive overhaul from last year.

Sporting (2-1-1) will host D.C. United (0-2-2) on Saturday hoping to continue its early season offensive trend.

Sporting is coming off a 2-2 draw at Colorado last weekend. It marked the third straight game in which it has scored at least two goals. Its nine goals lead MLS, and it reached that total in only four games, compared to eight games last year.

“We had an incredible desire to get to the goal,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said following the come-front-behind contest in Colorado.

“We had the opportunity to go, go, go. We just had to get to the box. The fact that we were able to get back in it was great, to get the point on the road. But I really believe we deserved to get three. I’m not happy with the two goals we gave up early, but outside of that I thought we ruled the game away from home.”

D.C. United has yet to reach the win column, mostly because of a porous defense. They’ve allowed nine goals in four games, ironically tied for the most with Sporting KC. But unlike SKC, United has only scored five goals.

In its most recent contest, DC United fell 3-1 at the Columbus Crew, the third straight game in which it has allowed multiple goals.

“It’s a tough challenge, and losses are emotional in this business,” DC United coach Ben Olsen said of fighting the early season struggles. “Making sure the mentality is somewhat neutral, but still letting that pain of a loss fuel you.

“It’s a fine balance of not getting too high and not getting too low, and understanding that this is a long journey, but also not being satisfied. (We have to) push each other and make sure we are getting the best out of each other and getting better. If we can do that, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Sporting is led by Felipe Gutierrez, who became the second midfielder in MLS history to score four goals in his first four regular-season appearances.  That includes a pair of game-winners against the Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes.

Gutierrez also leads MLS in shots on target (nine) and tackles won (16) while ranking fourth in duels won (36) and sixth among field players in recoveries (36). With two MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week honors already under his belt, he could almost guarantee his selection as MLS Player of the Month with a strong performance Saturday.

D.C. United lost a league-high 20 games last season after posting three straight winning seasons from 2014-2016. But Sporting KC won’t be looking past this match.

D.C. United has owned the recent head-to-head series, going 3-0-3 while conceding only one goal over the last six meetings. Sporting KC last beat D.C. with a 1-0 home victory Oct. 18, 2013. D.C. United has emerged victorious in each of its last two visits to Children’s Mercy Park.

D.C. United will play 12 of its first 14 regular-season matches on the road while the finishing touches to its new home stadium, Audi Field, are completed.