For the second straight home match, Sporting Kansas City dominated but wound up with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
As it had done eight days earlier against the Chicago Fire, Sporting KC controlled the tempo and dictated possession Saturday against the Houston Dynamo at Livestrong Sporting Park. But the game ended in a 0-0 draw in front of a crowd of 19,307, the seventh consecutive sellout in MLS games and eighth in nine home matches this season.
With a chance to leapfrog idle D.C. United in the Eastern Conference standings with a win — or move into a tie with a draw — Sporting KC, which lost 1-0 against the Fire in its last home game, settled for the tie despite a 17-7 edge in shots.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more from the guys,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “We gave up one chance in the first half and Jimmy (Nielsen) made a great save. After that, we locked it down and we were excellent.”
Houston, 6-5-7, seemed content to lay back in search of a rare road point in a contest that started with the mercury at 104 degrees.
“They had a lot of numbers, especially as we moved forward, in and around their goal,” Vermes said. “You want to score, for sure, but what you can’t do is mistake performance for what the result is at the end of the day. Our performance was excellent.”
Houston forward Boniek Garcia presented trouble early, getting the best of Sporting KC left back Seth Sinovic twice in the first 15 minutes.
Garcia dribbled around Sinovic in the ninth minute, but Sinovic recovered and forced a pass back to fellow striker Will Bruin, who entered the game third in the MLS with nine goals. Bruin wound up for a shot, but center back Matt Besler stuffed the effort and Paulo Nagamura, who started at defensive midfielder, cleared the ball.
Six minutes later, Garcia got free on the right flank for a one-on-one opportunity with Sporting KC goalkeeper Nielsen. But Nielsen raced off his line to quickly close the gap and blocked the shot with his right mitt, then smothered the rebound.
“Our shape is something that we talked about before the game, and it was excellent tonight,” Besler said. “Aside from the one chance we gave up in the first half, we didn’t give up anything. We didn’t even give up a corner kick, so it’s a great performance to build off of.”
Sporting KC, 10-5-3 and tied for first place with 33 points, didn’t generate a bounty of chances early, but that changed as the first half worn on, including great combination play in the 30th minute from Sinovic and forwards Kei Kamara and Jacob Peterson.
Kamara laid off for Peterson and made a diagonal run as Peterson back-heeled a ball for Sinovic, who sent a cross for Kamara at the backpost — but Dynamo defender Corey Ashe deflected the ball wide of the goal.
Three minutes later, Peterson banged one off the left post.
During the 57th minute, Roger Espinoza made a run into the box, stayed on his feet through a rough challenge from Ashe and teed one up for forward C.J. Sapong, whose right-footed roller just missed at the far post.
Kamara and midfielder Graham Zusi authored several more second-half chances, but the go-ahead goal never came.
“We were a little unlucky with the post and a few other chances,” Nielsen said. “Overall, it was a good performance and we were the dominating team.”
Sporting KC didn’t concede a restart in its own end until the 62nd minute and faced only one threatening cross off a Brad Davis free kick — a 90th-minute restart that ping-ponged in the Sporting KC penalty box before Nielsen denied Brian Ownby with a sliding save.
“The last thing I said to the players was that we have to limit the fouls and set pieces around our area,” Nielsen said. “They are very good on those with Brad Davis serving the ball, so we had to get back in position quickly and early. When you’re position early, you limit the fouls and we did an unbelievable job of that today.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.