Sporting frustrated at being held scoreless again at home

Graham Zusi flies

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. –The confetti cannons have fallen silent at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Sporting Kansas City have now gone three straight home matches without scoring a goal, after Saturday night’s 0-0 draw against New England – they last found the net at home in a 3-0 US Open Cup quarterfinal win over the Dayton Dutch Lions of USL Pro on June 26.

You have to look even farther back, to a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC on June 16, to find Sporting’s last home goal against top-tier opposition.

“It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie,” midfielder Graham Zusi said after Sporting (11-6-4) missed a chance to stay atop the Eastern Conference. “It’s not from a lack of opportunities, either. I think we’ve created plenty of chances. It’s all about sticking them in the back of the net now.”

HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 0, NE 0

Adding to that frustration is the fact that Sporting’s defense has played lights-out at home while the offense has sputtered. Kansas City has given up just one goal over its last three home matches, and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen earned his ninth clean sheet on Saturday night to move into sole possession of the league lead in that category.

“When you make a clean sheet, you’re guaranteed at least a point,” Nielsen said. “When we couldn’t put in the goals today – all right, we get one point. It’s better than nothing. But I’m struggling to stand here being satisfied today. Not happy.”

Forward Kei Kamara, who leads Sporting with seven goals, was also frustrated by the club’s second straight scoreless home draw.

“The goals are going to come, but it’s been tough at home,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep going forward. At least we didn’t lose all the points from this game, so we’ve just got to move forward to the next home game.”

To the Revs’ credit, they successfully clogged the penalty area throughout the match and got a spectacular diving save from Matt Reis to turn away Jacob Peterson’s header in the 52nd minute.

Sporting can’t do anything about the saves – but in the postgame news conference, manager Peter Vermes said his team has to do a better job of breaking open other teams’ bunkers.

“It’s a tough thing to break down in a game,” Vermes said. “Obviously, it’s something we need to get even better at, because I think it’s something we’re going to see more and more. Teams don’t want to open themselves up against us.”

Peterson’s header wasn’t the only chance Sporting had after a slow first half, though. They made 20 of their 29 crosses after the break – but couldn’t make that final connection on any of them.

“We’ve got to connect on the end of those,” Vermes said. “There were too many balls that went in front of the goal or went past the goal, out the other side for the throw-in. That means we’re not getting enough guys in the box. It’s something that we’ve got to take responsibility for and be better on. We’re right around it, but we just haven’t had that final touch.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.