FC Dallas-Sporting Kansas City Preview

KEVIN CHROUST (STATS Writer)
The Associated Press

Despite dropping its opener, the first week of the MLS season has given Sporting Kansas City plenty to be optimistic about.

After a CONCACAF Champions League victory and a new international signing, the defending MLS Cup champion turns its attention back to getting its first MLS win of the season Saturday night at FC Dallas.

Kansas City (0-1-0) opened with a 1-0 loss at Seattle on Saturday before rebounding Wednesday in a 1-0 home win in the first leg of its Champions League quarterfinal against Mexican power Cruz Azul.

"I think in Seattle we got unfortunate," said Kansas City, Mo., native Kevin Ellis, who scored in the 17th minute against Cruz Azul after being a part of the back line that conceded Seattle's stoppage-time goal. "We played really well defensively for 93 minutes and 40 seconds. We had one lapse all over the field. It wasn't just the back line. It wasn't just the midfield. We win as a team and we lose as a team. We all know that and it feels good to come back home and get a win."

Between those games, Sporting announced the signing of Spanish midfielder Antonio Dovale from La Liga club Celta Vigo. The 23-year-old has begun training with his new club, but when he'll be available is uncertain as he waits for his transfer and visa to clear.

Now onto its third match in eight days with Wednesday's CCL second leg in Mexico City also looming, Peter Vermes' club will try to gather enough energy to slow a Dallas attack that looked plenty capable in its 3-2 home win over Montreal on Saturday.

After falling behind early, Fabian Castillo equalized in the 16th minute, Blas Perez converted a penalty kick in the 24th and Mauro Diaz scored in the 47th on a free kick.

"It's hard because you have to work double to come (back) after they score a goal so early in the game," said Diaz, who scored three goals in 10 games last season after joining the club in August. "But we know we have the players to reverse that, and luckily we came with a win and were able to hold them back."

Kansas City tends to not let that happen. It allowed an MLS-low 30 goals a season ago and hasn't conceded more than two in 23 straight matches across all competitions. Sporting has allowed just 14 goals in that span with 10 clean sheets.

Shutting out Cruz Azul gave Sporting plenty of confidence heading to Dallas (1-0-0).

"We talked about the fact that it will take every roll of the ball for us to be concentrated and focused for 90-plus minutes," Vermes said. "We knew they were very crafty and they could find opportunities off mistakes and capitalize very quickly when you are not paying attention. I thought our concentration was excellent."

Dallas and Kansas City met once last season for a 2-2 draw in Dallas, and it was one of the rare occasions Sporting has shown vulnerability.

The visitors had a 2-0 lead, but Dallas got an 88th-minute goal from Andrew Jacobson before Walker Zimmerman tied the match in the 90th.