Monday, March 25, 2013

Sporting Kansas City draws New England

Sporting Kansas City drew 0-0 against New England on Saturday afternoon in the Revolution's home opener at Gillette Stadium. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen recorded his second consecutive clean sheet while centerback Ike Opara made his debut for the club in a strong defensive showing by the visitors.

Sporting Kansas City held New England to three shots in the match, with the first attempt coming in the 77th minute, and did not concede a shot on goal in an MLS match for just the seventh time in the team's 18-year history.

With the clean sheet, Nielsen extends his shutout streak to 249 minutes. The stretch is the longest in MLS this season and the Revolution have now gone 412 minutes without a goal against Sporting KC dating back to July 2011.

It was Sporting Kansas City with the first chance of the match in the 15th minute when former Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber, acquired by Sporting KC in an offseason trade, played the ball down the left flank to Soony Saad.

Making his first start since last July, Saad crossed the ball to C.J. Sapong at the near post but the former Rookie of the Year sent his shot over the crossbar.

Four minutes later, Sporting Kansas City nearly took the lead off of a flurry of chances inside the penalty area following a long throw-in from Seth Sinovic.

Sapong's shot beat Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis but Clyde Simms threw his body in front of the shot on the goalline to block the attempt into the crossbar. The rebound fell to the foot of Feilhaber, but Reis recovered to save the attempt from 12 yards out.

With 10 minutes left in the first half, Designated Player Claudio Bieler looked to notch his third goal since joining Sporting Kansas City when he took a hard-hit shot off a free kick from the left corner of the box that was held by Reis at the near post.

Sporting Kansas City entered the locker room at halftime having held New England without a shot in the first half, marking the ninth time in team history - and third time away from home all-time - that Sporting KC has held an opponent without a shot in a half.

The first noteworthy chance of the second half game in the 64th minute of play when Nguyen played a well-hit free kick to the far right post, aiming for Juan Toja. The Colombian midfielder couldn't get a touch on the ball and it went out for a free kick.

Ten minutes later and quick on the counterattack, Bieler was on the receiving end of a long ball and slipped behind the New England backline. With Reis rushing off his line, the Argentine attempted to chip the ball over the top, but Reis reacted well to make the save.

The Revolution registered their only real scoring opportunity of the match in the 77th minute when Toja sent in a free kick from the top of the area that sailed inches above the crossbar.

Seven minutes later, Opara nearly scored in his debut when his header went just wide of the fast post on a corner taken by Feilhaber. Opara and Bieler led all players with three shots on Saturday.

A minute later, second-half substitute Peterson Joseph and Feilhaber both took strikes from outside the box that were blocked by Reis on a day in which the veteran netminder made five saves for his 72nd career shutout.

Neither team could break through in the chilly conditions and New England settled for their first-ever draw in a home opener, snapping a streak of six straight home opener victories dating back to 2007.