Over the course of two meetings that transpired six months apart, Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers shared a soccer field for more than 180 minutes. The resulting product featured a defining characteristic.
The absence of goals.
Late Wednesday in Oregon, Sporting and the Timbers played to a scoreless draw, their second this season, in a matchup that pitted two teams in the thick of the MLS Western Conference playoff race.
The clubs picked up one point each and remained tied for the fifth and sixth spots in the West. The top six teams in the standings will reach the MLS postseason in late October.
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“It’s good to get a shutout. The guys played well,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview after the match. “The point was a very good thing.”
The scoreless sheet was a pleasant sight for a Sporting team that had allowed 14 goals over its previous four matches. It was aided Wednesday by the return of defensive midfielder Soni Mustivar, who missed the previous three matches — all losses — with a groin strain.
But it wasn’t just Mustivar. Not by a long shot.
Sporting keeper Tim Melia saved his club from misfortune on many occasions. He concluded a career-best seven-save night when he stoned Maximiliano Urruti in second-half stoppage time.
That supplied a fitting cap to his seventh shutout, though it was his first since July 12.
“I think he was the man of the match,” Vermes said. “You also have to say a lot about the back line. They did a very good job of (covering) us at times.”
Melia did most of his work after halftime.
Working against his momentum, he dived to his right to stop a header attempt from Fanendo Adi in the 49th minute — the first of a flurry of second-half chances from Portland. Nine minutes later, he came off his line and negated close-range try from Lucas Melano. And after Sporting forward Graham Zusi clanked a one-hopper off the post, Portland’s counter again reached Melia, who again sprinted off the goal line to nullify the threat.
In other words, the second half was animated, even if it was scoreless.
The first half? Not so much.
The best opening-half chance from Sporting came on Saad Abdul Salaam’s header, which he flicked off Matt Besler’s throw-in, but Portland keeper Adam Kwarasey was well-positioned for the save.
The Timbers formulated a few opportunities, but most of them were canceled by offsides calls. Its top mark on goal, at least in the first half, required a kick save from Melia, who effectively denied forward Fanendo Adi’s attempt — simply the start of the impressive evening for Melia.
It earned his club a point before a daunting trip.
Sporting KC will embark on its longest road trip of the season — in terms of distance — when it travels from Portland to Orlando, Fla., to face the expansion club at 6 p.m. Sunday. Former Sporting KC central defender Aurelien Collin resides on the Orlando City SC back line.
Sporting KC and Portland will meet for a third and final time this regular season Oct. 3 at Providence Park.
Source:AP_GLOBALFile:Keyword:Dated:23:55 09-09-2015Processed at:23:55 09-Sep-15
Sporting Kansas City-Timbers, Sums
TableStyle: SPORT-CCI Template:
First half: None.
Second half: None.
Goalies: Sporting Kansas City, Tim Melia; Portland, Adam Kwarasey.
Yellow Cards: Nagamura, Sporting Kansas City, 40th; Melano, Portland, 45th+; Peterson, Sporting Kansas City, 45th+; Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City, 68th; Anor, Sporting Kansas City, 90th+.
Referee: Fotis Bazakos. Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell. Mike Rottersman. 4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal.
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia, Seth Sinovic, Saad Abdul-Salaam (Jalil Anibaba, 62nd), Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (Jordi Quintilla, 90th+), Paulo Nagamura, Soni Mustivar, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson (Bernardo Anor, 75th). Portland: Adam Kwarasey, Taylor Peay, Nat Borchers, Jack Jewsbury, Norberto Paparatto, Darlington Nagbe, Jorge Villafana, Diego Valeri, George Fochive (Rodney Wallace, 83rd), Fanendo Adi (Dairon Asprilla, 73rd), Lucas Melano (Maximiliano Urruti, 83rd).