Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sporting KC's unbeaten streak extends to eight matches

Sporting Kansas City drew 0-0 with the Montreal Impact on Saturday afternoon at Stade Saputo, extending the team’s unbeaten streak to eight matches.

Sporting KC continues to lead the Eastern Conference, five points clear of the Chicago Fire, and moves within two points of San Jose in the team’s quest for the Supporters’ Shield.

Jimmy Nielsen recorded his 13th shutout of the season, most in MLS this year, and lowered his goals against average to 0.83, the lowest mark among all MLS goalkeepers who have played more than 15 matches in 2012.

After a quiet opening 10 minutes, the first chance of the match arrived in the 12th minute when Michael Harrington made an overlapping run and crossed to Graham Zusi at the edge of the box. The Sporting KC playmaker took a shot from distance that skimmed just wide of the far left post.

Just two minutes later, Zusi weaved in and out of Montreal’s defense, passing to Jacob Peterson. The winger, making his first start since July 28, sent a cross to Kei Kamara, who was ruled to be narrowly offside prior to taking the shot.

With 20 minutes left in the first half, the physicality and intensity of the match picked up as both teams vied for a goal. In the 25th minute, Italian veteran Marco Di Vaio played a free kick short to Justin Mapp.

The Montreal midfielder took the ball and charged down the center of the field before taking a driving shot that was just inches wide of the left post.

Sporting Kansas City responded three minutes later in the form of a promising buildup that was snuffed out by Perkins when he came off his line to collect a curling crossfrom Peterson on the right flank.

Montreal, who had won six straight at home prior to Saturday’s draw, put the pressure on the visitors when Felipe turned and struck low from 25 yards out, drawing goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen off his line to make the save.

The two sides went into halftime goalless with Sporting KC controlling 61 percent of the possession despite the expansion Impact being credited with the lone shot on goal.

It was Montreal with the first chance of the second half, arriving in the 52nd minute when Felipe played a quick cross for Andrew Wenger. Nielsen, who has played every minute in net for Sporting KC this season, was there to intervene and put a stop to the dangerous play.

Sixteen minutes later, the Impact continued to threaten Sporting KC’s defense when former Sporting KC captain Davy Arnaud settled a cross at the far post and fired a low shot that grazed inches beyond the far left post.

The action picked up with 15 minutes to play when Peterson took an attempt from 25 yards out that was pushed away by Perkins at the near post.

Three minutes later, the ball pinballed around the Montreal box, finally settling on Sapong’s head only to see the attempt go straight to Perkins for his second save in short succession.

Perkins, acquired from Portland in exchange for fellow goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts last month, earned his third clean sheet in six appearances for his new club.

Montreal, on the brink of elimination from the MLS playoff race, got in on the flurry of action in the 80th minute when Sanna Nyassi took a tight shot from deep in Sporting KC’s box, but Nielsen and Sinovic combined to close down the attacker at the endline.

With more than six minutes of stoppage time added onto the second half, the Impact fought for the coveted three points until the last minute of the game.

In the third minute of stoppage time, Felipe’s free kick was headed on goal by Matteo Ferrari but was punched away by an alert Nielsen.

Sporting KC, playing their third game in a nine-day span, held on for the hard-fought point away from home to conclude a successful two-game road trip that saw the club play two teams with a League-high 10 wins at home on the year.

Sporting Kansas City will return home to host the Chicago Fire at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

Tickets for the match, to be nationally broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, are available online at and at the LSP Box Offices.