Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sporting KC moves into first place in East with 0-0 draw against Houston Dynamo

Sporting Kansas City moved into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with a scoreless draw against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday in front of the seventh-straight sell out crowd at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen recorded his seventh shutout of the season, most in MLS, and the Sporting KC defense lowered their League-leading goals against average to 0.94.

Both sides exchanged early efforts amidst the 104-degree conditions. Graham Zusisent his shot high in the opening minute and Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall came well of his line four minutes later to get a hand to Matt Besler's long throw-in with Aurelien Collin looming nearby.

Dynamo Designated Player Boniek Garcia got by Seth Sinovic on the right side in the game's ninth minute, laying a pass back for Will Bruin inside the penalty area. Besler slid to block the attempt and Paulo Nagamura was quick to clear the ball out of danger.

Boniek threatened again before the 15-minute mark, receiving a long pass on the right side from Corey Ashe. The Honduran international dribbled toward goal, but Sporting KC captain Jimmy Nielsen came off his line to make the stop in the one-on-one situation.

Sporting Kansas City continued to pressure on the offensive end in a half that saw the home side outshoot their opposition eight shots to two. Kei Kamara nearly got to a loose ball inside the Dynamo penalty area after a throw-in from Sinovic but Hall intervened at the final moment.

In the 33rd minute, Sporting Kansas City nearly opened the scoring on a well-taken shot from Jacob Peterson from 25 yards out. The attempt had Hall beaten only to bang into the post and back into play.

Kamara let loose with another attempt from outside the area five minutes later, but the left-footed try was deflected en route and held by Hall.

The final minute of the first half brought a flurry of activity from the Sporting KC attack, beginning when Graham Zusi tried to catch Hall off his line with a shot from just inside midfield.

The Sporting KC play-maker began the next buildup with a pass wide right to Peterson, who delivered a low cross in front of net. Kamara made a full-speed run but Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell kept pace and cleared away the chance.

Roger Espinoza fired the final shot of the first half, sending his attempt wide of frame following Zusi's sixth corner kick of the game.

Sporting Kansas City stayed on the front foot following halftime. Kamara's header off a Zusi free kick was directed on frame but Hall was alert to retreat to his line and maintain the clean sheet.

Reigning MLS Rookie of the Year C.J. Sapong came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 57th minute, pushing his shot narrowly wide of the far post. Espinoza had done well to hold off his man inside the penalty area and found Sapong alone at the top of the area.

Espinoza again played the part of provider eight minutes later, picking out Kamara with room to run at the defense. The Sierra Leone international leads MLS in shots on goal this season but couldn't challenge Hall on this occasion.

For the remaining thirty minutes of the match, Sporting Kansas City maintained possession in Houston’s half, creating chances and breaking down the defense, but unable to capitalize with the coveted goal.

Zusi, who led all players with five shots on the night, received a ball at the top of the box from Kamara and unleashed a powerful shot that went over the crossbar in the 72nd minute.

Moments later, Kamara made a run down the right flank, pulled back and shot low with his left foot, but was just wide of the near post.

In the 76th minute, Zusi charged down the center of the field and crossed the ball to Peterson. He wound up and shot low, forcing Hall to make the save.

Nielsen made a valiant save in the 90th minute to deny second-half substitute Brian Ownby. The Danish net-minder turned away the attempt with a sliding stop at the right edge of the six-yard box for his second and final save of the night.

Sporting Kansas City will now prepare for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday when they take on the Philadelphia Union at 6:30 p.m. CT at PPL Park.

Should Sporting Kansas City advance, the 2012 U.S. Open Cup Final will be held at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on August 7 or 8 against the winner between Chivas USA and Seattle Sounders FC.