Goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen didn’t have to work particularly hard for it, but he moved into first place alone in Sporting Kansas City history with his 38th shutout during a 4-0 win Sunday against Chivas USA at Sporting Park.
Nielsen, who is the reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year, entered the match tied with Tony Meola on the club’s all-time list.
“That’s probably one of the easiest shutouts I’ve had,” Nielsen said. “There wasn’t a lot to do. If they continue like that, I can play until I’m 44.”
He won’t take any time right now to reflect on the accomplishment, though.
“Meola’s not too happy about that right now, but good for (Nielsen),” Vermes said. “But I know he really doesn’t care at the end of the day, because what he wants is to win another championship with the team.”
It might have been Cinco de Mayo, but there were a lot of firsts for the home side Sunday at Sporting Park.
Claudio Bieler moved into a tie for first place in the MLS with six goals and Graham Zusi moved into a tie for first with four assists. Nielsen’s six shutouts also rank first among goalkeepers.
Jacob Peterson made his first start of the season and C.J. Sapong notched his first goal.
Meanwhile, Josh Gardner, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Montreal, made his first appearance with Sporting KC and recorded his first assist.
“It was a great game for us to get minutes for guys who are going to have an impact over the next so many months,” Vermes said. “He came on and, not only did he get an assist, but he played the position very well. These are all deposits he’s making in the bank for us as we move forward.”
Vermes made four changes to Sporting KC’s starting lineup.
That shakeup as the club embarked on a stretch of three games in eight days, included sitting two starting defenders — Matt Besler and Chance Myers.
Besler suffered a slight knee injury Saturday at training. He was held out for precautionary reasons.
“It wasn’t important for us to push it for this game, being that we have three games in eight days,” Vermes said. “So it was best to keep him out and same thing with Chance.”
That meant Ike Opara started at centerback with Mechack Jerome at right back. Peterson started for Sapong and midfielder Peterson Joseph also replaced Benny Feilhaber, who entered as a 76th-minute sub.
At halftime, Sporting KC unveiled the logo for the 2013 MLS All-Star Game, which will be played July 31 at Sporting Park.
The shield design features the club’s colors — Sporting blue and indigo — with a detail on the upper right edge that mimics Sporting Park’s canopy roof.
An announcement on which international club will play the Vermes-coached MLS All-Stars is expected in early June.
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com