Sporting KC

Sporting KC draws San Jose 0-0 on the road Saturday

Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

As the home unbeaten streak builds toward 13 months, and as Sporting Kansas City parlays that clout into a top spot in the Western Conference, the road outings have told a different story.

For more than two months, the away victories have evaded the club. Because the goals have, too.

But the latest illustration at least included a result.

Sporting KC was shut out for the seventh time on the road this season, but it held San Jose off the scoreboard for a 0-0 draw Saturday at Avaya Stadium.

“There’s no doubt we came to get three (points and a win),” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview. “We played well enough to get three. It feels a little unsatisfying that we didn’t. I think the guys are probably dissatisfied at the moment in the locker room. They know we had more of the game than they did.”

The match’s final sequence offered its best scoring opportunity. Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi single-handedly made a last-ditch run to break the scoreless draw, but his close-range shot was stoned by David Bingham.

Sporting KC’s record stands at 7-4-6 at the midway point in the season.

“These are very, very difficult situations to break down,” Vermes said. “The great thing is all the way to the last second — with Graham’s chance at the end — we were pushing to try to get the three.”

Sporting KC fell to 1-4-4 on the road. Or improved, depending on the perspective. In any event, the club is winless over its past five road matches.

But Sporting KC has used a league-best defense to still claw out points away from Children’s Mercy Park. It has four road ties this season in addition to the one victory, tallying eight points in nine matches.

A respectable ratio. But the defense has allowed the opportunity for more.

Sporting KC has allowed only eight goals in the nine road matches, the best road defense in MLS. The shutout Saturday was its league-leading ninth of the season.

“Not only is the defense playing well, but the other thing is the concentration level of the team is very good,” Vermes said. “When you have the ball as much as we do, you can almost lull yourself to sleep a little bit and start to become undisciplined and unbalanced. I thought we really kept our balance.”

That left a familiar feeling to Saturday’s result. Sporting KC held 60 percent of the possession and outshot San Jose 13-5 for the game. It didn’t turn any of them into an advantage on the scoreline.

Sporting KC nearly struck in the opening minutes. Twice, one of which was by accident. In the third minute, midfielder Benny Feilhaber sent a 35-yard pass into the box. It didn’t reach a recipient, but it nearly snuck into the back of the net, instead connecting with the right post. In the next sequence, Dom Dwyer had a ball at his dominant left foot but skied the shot over the bar.

Playing its third match in eight days, Sporting KC still used all but one of its regulars. Jimmy Medranda opened the match on the bench, pushing Latif Blessing into the lineup as a left winger. Forward Diego Rubio made his 2017 debut. Rubio tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee last October.

Sporting Kansas City will return to the West Coast again next weekend, when it travels to face the LA Galaxy.

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