April 2012: Sporting Kansas enjoy the best MLS start

Reigning champions Los Angeles Galaxy have yet to get going in the Major League Soccer (MLS). After the first five matches of the season the team centred around England super star David Beckham have recorded just two victories. However, the Californians managed a 3-1 (1-1) win against the Portland Timbers on the second week in April, with the goals coming from US star Landon Donovan, Juninho and Beckham, who netted the ball in added time in front of 22,143 spectators. LA now hold eighth position among the nine teams in the Western Conference of the North American Professional Football League. Only Portland, defeated by Los Angeles on April 14, have a weaker record.

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David Beckham greets the Los Angeles Galaxy fans after the 3-1 win over Portland Timbers on April 14, during which he scored the final goal. (Photo: Getty Images)

Beckham’s team played four of the five encounters since the beginning of March at home at Home Depot Center in Carson. But since the US champions were eliminated by Canadian representatives Toronto FC in the Champions League at the beginning of March, with a 2-2 draw away and a 2-1 loss at home, they lost in the MLS at Carson to Real Salt Lake (3-1), New England Revolution (3-1) and 1-0 at Sporting Kansas City. The still top favourites, coached by Bruce Arena, celebrated lone victories against DC United (3-1) and now Portland.

Kansas City appear strong, with some help from Lance Armstrong

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The team of the hour in the MLS are Sporting Kansas City, having won all their six matches by mid-April and become the clear leader in the Eastern Conference. KC achieved their latest success with a 1-0 (0-0) over Real Salt Lake on April 15, with Frenchman Aurelio Collin scoring the winner in front of 19,422 spectators. Their winning series started with a 1-0 success in the opening game at DC United, followed by four home wins against New England (3-0), FC Dallas (2-1), Los Angeles (1-0) and Salt Lake. In between Sporting were also successful at Chivas USA (1-0) on April 1.

Kansas City are playing their 17th season in the MLS. The club, formerly named Kansas City Wizards, is one of the founding members and was renamed Sporting after a change of ownership in 2005.

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Chance Myers of Sporting Kansas City passes the ball during the 1-0 victory over Los Angeles Galaxy at Livestrong Sporting Park on April 7. (Photo: Getty Images)

The most successful year so far was 2000 for the team from the Federal State of Missouri. Then they topped the table after the regular season and won the MLS Cup. The completion last year of their new, 180 million dollar multi-functional arena, with a capacity of about 25,000, was an important step for the club. The Lance Armstrong Foundation of the former road cycling star bought the name rights. Since the KC team have been playing at Livestrong Sporting Stadium they have progressed to the top. In 2011 they eliminated the Colorado Rapids, the 2011 champions, in the play-offs but then lost the Conference final 2-0 to Houston Dynamo.

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The New York Red Bulls recovered from two opening defeats at FC Dallas (2-1) and at Real Salt Lake (2-0) to grab second place behind Kansas in the Eastern Conference. After three wins over Colorado (4-1), newcomers Montreal (5-2) and the Columbus Crew (4-1) the team which boasts former European and World champion Thierry Henry could only draw 2-2 with the  San Jose Earthquakes at home at Red Bull Arena in mid-April. “I warned that we would have to be fully focussed against the strong Quakes if we wanted to win”, said Henry. DC United (8 points) hold third place behind Kansas (18) and New York (10) with two wins, two draws and two defeats. Chicago Fire, where former German international Arne Friedrich is facing his debut against Houston after a long injury break, are waiting for a second victory since beating Philadelphia 1-0 in March.

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Chris Wondolowski (no 8) of the San Jose Earthquakes scores with a header past Ryan Meara of the New York Red Bulls. The match ended in a 2-2 draw on April 14. (Photo: Getty Images)

The weakest team in the MLS is Toronto FC, lodged in the bottom 10th place in the Eastern Conference. After the surprise success in the Champions League for Central and North America against MLS champions Los Angeles, the Canadians have failed to win a single match. The 1-0 loss to Chivas USA at their home stadium in front of a 18,476-strong crowd on April 14, meant five consecutive defeats after losing in Seattle (3-1), against San Jose (3-0), Columbus (1-0) and in Montreal (2-1). However, the team that are currently missing former German international Torsten Frings, due to injury, have played the most matches. After Toronto had eliminated LA Galaxy they lost to Santos Laguna (Mexico) 6-2 away and drew 1-1 at home in the CONCACAF Champions League.