Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen recorded his league-leading ninth shutout of the season Saturday against the New England Revolution, but he wasn’t exactly happy about it in the wake of a 0-0 draw — the second in a row for Sporting KC at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“When you put up a clean sheet, you are guaranteed at least a point,” Nielsen said. “One point is better than nothing, but I’m struggling to say I’m satisfied today.”
Manager Peter Vermes felt the same way and put the blame for the latest result on a lackluster first half.
“We had a lot of chances around the goal, but at the end it winds up being a 0-0 draw,” he said. “If we come out with the same energy in the first half as we did the second half, maybe it’s a different game.”
Instead, Sporting KC’s streak without a goal at home in MLS play reached 335 minutes with the latest 90 scoreless minutes. The only saving grace is that opponents have managed only one goal in that same span, dating back to the 35th minute June 16 against Toronto FC.
“The first half was not a very exciting first half on both team’s parts,” Vermes said. “They sat back all the way they could and we really didn’t push the game well enough.”
New England, 6-9-5, was the aggressor early — particularly forward Ryan Guy, who would spend time at left midfielder, left back and center midfielder before the game finished, and nearly had to step in at goalkeeper when Matt Reis was injured in second-half stoppage time.
Guy took the game’s first chance, a 20-yard rip in the eighth minute that Nielsen blocked with his forearms and centerback Aurelien Collin cleared it from danger.
Later, Guy got to the end of Lee Nguyen’s 15th-minute corner kick for a powerful diving header, but this time Nielsen punched the ball clear as it reached the goal line — not that the Revolution didn’t protest.
“I knew I could make the save, but the question was, was it going to be before or after the ball crossed the line,” Nielsen said. “Lucky for me, it was before it crossed the line.”
It also probably won Nielsen, who leaves today with Collin and midfielder Graham Zusi for the MLS All-Star Game, a third straight MLS save of the week honor. He’d get plenty of votes from the 19,080 on hand — the eighth consecutive sellout at Livestrong.
It would be the 21st minute before Sporting KC, which is known for putting teams under pressure early in games, authored a legitimate chance.
Jacob Peterson, starting at attacking midfielder after several starts at wing in Bobby Convey’s absence, let a second ball settle just outside the box and sent a crackling shot with the outside of his foot that bent inches wide of the right post.
Zusi tried to beat New England goalkeeper Matt Reis with a 30-yard chip in the 28th minute, but he stopped it as it sailed toward the upper left corner.
Five minutes later, Reis punched away a high, floating cross that Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara was headed for.
“Matt was gallant tonight,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “We asked him to be big on crosses and he had a really good game. I thought he had the save of the night on the header (by Peterson).”
During the 52nd minute, Convey, who started for the first time since May 19 at Colorado, played a corner kick high to Harrington on the right flank. Harrington sent a low cross into the box for Peterson, whose header toward the far post was pushed wide by a diving Reis.
Sporting KC almost broke through in stoppage time — all 12 minutes of it — when Zusi whipped in an early cross that Kamara redirected on frame, but Reis, who recorded his fourth shutout of the season, had it covered.
Coupled with a 2-0 win earlier in the day for the New York Red Bulls against the Philadelphia Union, Sporting KC, 11-6-4, slipped to second place in the Eastern Conference.