KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City’s solid defensive effort moved them back into a share of the Eastern Conference lead, but their continued struggles to score from anywhere but the penalty spot kept them from taking the top spot all for themselves in scoreless draw on Saturday night at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Sporting outshot the Houston Dynamo 17-7 on a sweltering evening, with the mercury at 104 degrees at kickoff, but they had to settle for a point. That moved SKC (10-5-3, 33 points), who converted two PKs in Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Montreal, into a first-place tie with D.C. United.
Houston (6-5-7) extended their unbeaten string to three matches in the first meeting between the two sides since Houston’s 2-0 win at Livestrong in last year’s Eastern Conference Championship.
Sporting, ever mindful of Houston’s dangerous set-piece game, didn’t give up a restart in their own end through a scoreless first half and into the 62nd minute. And it wasn’t until the 79th, when Adam Moffat bounced a free kick off a two-man wall, that the Dynamo actually went for goal on a set piece.
But despite a 6-0 advantage in corners and three free kicks in dangerous spots before the break, the hosts were unable to turn the statistical disparity into goals. Their best chance of the half came out of the run of play, when Jacob Peterson ripped a low shot off the left post in the 33rd minute.
Peterson, making his third start of the season because of continuing calf soreness for left winger Bobby Convey, also set up a nice opportunity for Sporting with a backheel pass to Seth Sinovic in the 30th minute. Sinovic’s cross nearly found Kei Kamara at the back post, but defender Corey Ashe deflected it out for a corner.
The Dynamo still managed to generate several chances through brand new Honduran signing Boniek García before the break, but center back Matt Besler blocked Will Bruin’s shot in the ninth minute and Jimmy Nielsen saved García’s attempt in the 15th.
Bruin, who came into the game third in MLS with nine goals this season, didn’t get off another shot before being lifted for Brian Ching in the 66th minute.
Sporting generated two good chances early in the second half, but Kamara’s header went right into Tally Hall’s hands in the 48th minute and C.J. Sapong fired just left in the 57th after Roger Espinoza’s run deep into the Houston area.
Another flurry of chances around the 75-minute mark also went begging, and Sporting’s last chance to pick up three points sailed high along with Graham Zusi’s shot off a throw-in in the 89th minute.
Houston had a chance to steal the game late was thwarted when Aurélin Collin and Nielsen combined to stop Brian Ownby’s shot in the 90th minute. Hall had four saves and Nielsen made two for their respective shutouts.
Sporting Kansas CIty return to action on the road against the Philadelphia Union in the semifinals of the US Open Cup on July 11, while the Dynamo host D.C. United on July 15.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jacob Peterson||Tireless defending from the left wing spot, plus a hand in two of Sporting's best scoring chances of the night, showed why his stock and his playing time keep going up.|
Great against Sapong and covering for Ashe, and really cleaned things up side to side. Probably his best game of the year.
|3||Paulo Nagamura||His launch of a ball out of Livestrong Sporting Park from distance notwithstanding, Nagamura's cool, position-oriented work at defensive mid was a key factor in SKC giving up only one dangerous restart.|