In December 2013, as Sporting Kansas City captured its first MLS championship in 13 years, the temperature dropped so low that defender Matt Besler said it was difficult to move his lips to communicate.
Four seasons later, the club has outwardly stated an objective to bring Children’s Mercy Park its first playoff game since that cold afternoon. And a wintry mix before the home opener Saturday offered a subtle reminder of it.
The result did not.
Sporting Kansas City played to its second consecutive scoreless draw to open the season, this one a 0-0 tie Saturday against FC Dallas in its home opener in front of 19,117 fans at Children’s Mercy Park.
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After an offseason spent retooling the offense, Sporting KC is scoreless through two matches — though so is its opposition.
“We’re not changing who we are. We’ve had a lot of success with who we are. That’s not the issue,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said.
“At the end of the day, everybody wants to score goals. If you would tell me starting off the season, we would have two clean sheets and we’re moving ahead the way we are with the kind of talent we have, I think we’re in a great position.”
The match was the coldest one played at Children’s Mercy Park since the 2013 MLS Cup. In that final, a kickoff temperature of 19 degrees became the coldest game on record. It wasn’t quite that cold Saturday — not enough to affect the match, the players said — though temperatures did fall below freezing during the match after a morning of snowfall in Kansas City.
Sporting KC held a significant portion of the possession — 68 percent to 32 percent for FC Dallas — but it managed only two shots on goal.
Reminiscent of 2016? Perhaps.
But Sporting KC did display some improved options, most notably the footwork of winger addition Gerso Fernandes. Yet, as was the case in a season-opening draw at D.C. United, the final product was absent.
It’s early, of course, but a club that struggled to find options behind striker Dom Dwyer in 2016 has not yet found a goal in the initial 180 minutes of 2017.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way the games go sometimes when we’re at home,” Dwyer said. “I think they really slowed the game down, and the ref kind of let that happen. I think that played into their hands.”
That sentiment was echoed throughout the Sporting KC locker room Saturday.
Whatever the length of perceived time-wasting, Sporting KC failed to find the back of the net in the time it was allotted. For the second straight match, Vermes opted for Jimmy Medranda and Fernandes on the wings flanking Dwyer in the middle.
Latif Blessing replaced Medranda in the 67th minute, marking his MLS debut. A tipped ball fell to Blessing’s right foot in the 91st minute, but he opted to one-time the chance rather than settle it, and he sent the shot well over the bar.
Dwyer had Sporting Kansas City’s best opportunity in the opening half. He collected a pass from Benny Feilhaber about 10 yards from the goal, but he slipped as he attempted to contort his body for a shot.
“It’s a new group of players — we’re getting better; we’re getting closer,” Dwyer said. “We had chances tonight. You can’t say we didn’t have chances. We should’ve put chances away.”
On the flip side, Sporting Kansas City has yet to allow a goal in two matches. It conceded four shots on goal Saturday, which goalkeeper Tim Melia gobbled up without issue. Dallas forward Cristian Colman hit the outside of the post in the 29th minute.
Sporting KC kept its home opener record intact. Children’s Mercy Park opened in 2011, and Sporting KC has not lost a home opener in the seven seasons since. But five of the seven matches have resulted in draws.
“There’s a bit of frustration because we expect to win at home, and the crowd was great tonight, especially with the weather,” Besler said. “They were just waiting for us to get a goal. We did everything could, but we just unfortunately couldn’t get one there in the end.”
Sporting KC 0
FC Dallas 0
DALLAS: Jesse Gonzalez; Maynor Figueroa, Aaron Guillen, Atiba Harris, Matt Hedges; Carlos Cermeno, Carlos Gruezo, Jacori Hayes (Kellyn Acosta, 45th), Paxton Pomykal (Michael Barrios, 80th); Tesho Akindele, Cristian Colman (Roland Lamah, 63rd).
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Jimmy Medranda (Latif Blessing, 67th), Ilie Sanchez, Graham Zusi; Dom Dwyer, Gerso Fernandes.
Kansas City: None.
Shot on goal
Dallas: Guillen (handball), 4th; Figueroa (unsporting behavior), 29th; Harris (unsporting behavior), 69th; Gruezo (unsporting behavior), 86th; Cermeño (unsporting behavior), 90th+.
Kansas City: Sinovic (unsporting behavior), 79th; Dwyer (argument), 81st; Fernandes (dissent), 90th+.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Sorin Stoica.
Assistant referee: Claudiu Badea.
Assistant referee: Jonathan Johnson.
Fourth official: Allen Chapman.