Four points from two hard-fought road matches, with only two day's rest between them? Sporting Kansas City will take that and be more than happy.
“If you'd have told us that would be the case going into this trip, we'd have said, 'That'd be great,'” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Saturday's scrappy but scoreless draw against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo. “This was a huge result. We came to play, and for us to do that on such a quick turnaround, with (Montreal) having the week off, I'm very pleased with the point and the performance of all the guys.”
The East leaders, who opened the two-match road swing with a 2-0 victory over New York on Wednesday, extended their unbeaten streak to a season-best eight games with Saturday's draw. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen earned his league-leading 14th shutout, making three saves as the expansion Impact tried frantically to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a win.
“We're locking in to the end of the season, trying to make a strong run for the Supporters Shield,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “These games, they're more of a battle than anything. Today, we matched the intensity of Montreal, and I think we're really homing into these last few games.”
The homestretch doesn't get any easier for the defending Eastern Conference regular-season champions, who host surging Chicago on Friday in what's shaping up to be a clash for the East lead.
“It'll be good to get a little rest and training in,” Vermes said. “Then we'll be off and running again.”
Sporting likely will have to face the Fire without forward Jacob Peterson, who went almost the full 90 in his first start since sustaining a right shoulder sprain in late July. He was expected to go an hour, at the most, but came off in the 89th minute instead. Then, he shown a red card while on the bench shortly afterward by referee Jorge Gonzalez. The reason given was “foul and abusive language,” but Vermes – who was standing near Peterson at the time – said he didn't hear anything worthy of a red card.
“I'm going to wait for the referee's report, but I was standing right there,” Vermes said. “Obviously, the referee thought he heard something, but what he thinks he heard, Jake never said.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.