Saturday night's match up between Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park was supposed to be Kansas City's first chance for redemption against the team that knocked them out of last year's playoffs. But despite Sporting being able to dominate much of the game, Kansas City had to settle for just one point against the defending Eastern Conference Champions, as the two sides played to a 0-0 draw in front of the 19,307 in attendance.
Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes made two changes to the starting lineup that played in last Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact. Jacob Peterson got the start on the left wing for Sporting on Saturday, allowing CJ Sapong to move back to his natural position at center forward. Paulo Nagamura also replaced Julio Cesar in the Sporting midfield, allowing Cesar some much needed rest in light of Kansas City's heavy schedule as of late.
Sporting Kansas City started the match looking to dominate possession and dictate the pace, which they were successful in doing for the first few minutes of the match. However, Houston was able to strike first, as Dynamo defender Jermaine Taylor was able to lob a pass over the top of the Kansas City defense and find Boniek Garcia with miles of space on the right side. Garcia slipped past the Sporting offside trap, and attempted to shoot the ball across goal. Surely the shot would have put the Dynamo ahead, had it not been for a great save from Sporting goalkeeper, Jimmy Nielsen, who was able to deflect the ball away from goal.
It wasn't until the 30th minute of play that Sporting was able to create it's first legitimate scoring opportunity as left back Seth Sinovic was able to loop a cross in from the left side of the pitch that was mere inches too far in front of the incoming Kei Kamara.
The play would be the beginning of a number of missed opportunities for the home side, as Kansas City was able to accumulate 16 total shots (only 4 of those being on-goal), compared to the 3 from Houston (2 on goal).
Kamara, in particular, would have a number of goal scoring opportunities he ultimately couldn't convert. In the closing minutes of the first half, Jacob Peterson was able to feed a low cross to Kamara inside the box. Houston defender Bobby Boswell was able to get just enough on the ball to break up the chance.
In the 48th minute of play Sporting midfielder played a dangerous free kick into the Dynamo box. Kamara was able to head the ball towards goal, but it was easily saved by Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.
It was just one of those nights for Sporting Kansas City as Sapong, Zusi, and Peterson had chances of their own they were unable to capitalize on.
Still, the draw gives Kansas City 33 points, and a share of first place in the Eastern Conference with the red-hot DC United. Houston remains in fifth place in the East with 25 points, three behind the fourth place Chicago Fire.
Sporting next plays the Philadelphia Union July 11th at PPL Park in the US Open Cup semifinal.
A Few Post Match Thoughts:
1. The Sporting defense came to play. For all of the concern there has been about a suddenly-suspect Sporting defense, the back line showed up tonight and was able to shut down the Houston attack. Dynamo forward Will Bruin was all-but invisible for the majority of his time on the field. Take away a couple of plays in the game (most notably when the defense allowed Garcia easily through in the 15th minute of play), and it was an all around solid performance for the back line that should help ease concerns.
2. Finishing is still a huge problem for Kansas City. Anytime a team is able to accumulate 16 shots, you'd expect that side to be able to score at least one goal. That wasn't the case for Sporting tonight, as Kansas City was held scoreless for the second time in the last three matches. It's a problem the team is going to have to fix soon if they harbor any real ambition to make a run at the MLS Cup in 2012. I like the Neven Markovic signing as much as anybody, but he's not going to score for Kansas City. Sporting still needs to find the answer to it's goal-scoring woes.
3. Jacob Peterson looks like a very good signing. The talk of the off season was the acquisition of former San Jose man, Bobby Convey, but it has been the less-heralded Peterson who has looked like the better signing thus far. He's versatile, playing both wing positions, and he's been a dangerous offensive threat the past few games. Peterson almost notched another goal in Saturday's match as his shot in the first half hit the left goal post before being cleared by the Dynamo defense.