Sporting Kansas City and Newcastle United played out a scoreless draw on Wednesday in a friendly defined by scorching heat and overwhelming humidity that took its toll on all involved.
With the weather conditions pushing 95 degrees well into the night, 16,131 fans packed into Livestrong Sporting Park to watch Kansas City take on a Premier League opponent for the second-straight year. Unfortunately, the scoreline couldn’t live up to the excitement in the stands.
The two sides combined for 25 shots and a three efforts on goal but couldn’t break the deadlock, as both managers remained content to let the game take its natural course with players slowed by the conditions.
Neither team managed a shot on goal in the first half, but the pace remained relatively high despite the heat. And although both goalkeepers were untested, each side had enough chances to keep the game interesting despite a lack of sharpness in front of net.
Sporting, clearly the fitter side, took the reins as early as 12 seconds into the match when Omar Bravo narrowly missed getting on the end of Kei Kamara’s cross. Kansas City followed that up with a penalty shout four minutes later when Graham Zusi ghosted in behind the Newcastle defense. Jonas Gutierrez separated Zusi from the ball in a physical fashion as both players fought for position, sending the Sporting midfielder to the turf but eliciting no response from Edvin Jurisevic.
The Magpies answered a few minutes later as Hatem Ben Arfa, who would later be removed after being on the receiving end of a Roger Espinoza tackle, burst through the Sporting defense and rounded goalkeeper Eric Kronberg but couldn’t keep the ball from slipping over the endline.
The home team answered with a handful of fleeting opportunities of their own as Kamara headed Seth Sinovic’s cross well wide and Jeferson burst into space to unleash a few left-footed drives that were off target.
Recent Newcastle signing Sylvian Marveaux then created the half’s best scoring chance in the 21st minute when he and Gutierrez combined on the right flank, leaving Marveaux free to skip in on goal from the left flank. He managed to coax Kronberg out of net but his pass turned shot slipped just past the far post.
Following that close call, Bravo nodded another header off frame and Jeferson took another shot from distance but neither side really threatened the rest of the half. Sporting manager Peter Vermes used the halftime break to make wholesale changes with a league game against Toronto coming up at the weekend, swapping out the entire midfield and four others.
In light of Newcastle’s complaints about the heat throughout the week, Alan Pardew made his share of substitutions, replacing three of the 11 players at the half. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Vermes made his final two changes, sending Soony Saad and Kevin Ellis into the game.
Saad made his entrance matter immediately, forcing a diving save out of Tim Krul with a left-footed curler, and substitute Milos Stojcev followed that up a few minutes later with a header that Krul palmed out for a corner kick.
But despite the fresh legs on the field, neither side looked much like scoring, settling for mostly wild shots from distance and showing some sluggishness brought on by the conditions, before the Magpies created a flurry of opportunities in the last 15 minute.
Newcastle center back Ryan Taylor flashed a free kick wide of the post and Fabricio Coloccini sent a header off the side netting before Danny Simpson had the best chance of the bunch. Unfortunately, the right back directed his shot into Kronberg’s feet.
C.J. Sapong nearly claimed the victory for Kansas City as time expired, but his bending shot was gobbled up by a well-positioned Krul.
SKC – Roger Espinoza (caution; Reckless Tackle) 31
NFC – Cheik Tiote (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 38
SKC – Peterson Joseph (caution; Reckless Tackle) 78
Newcastle United – Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote (James Tavernier 46), Dan Gosling (Danny Simpson 63), Sylvian Marveaux (Mehdi Abeid 46), Hatem Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 35), Demba Ba (Leon Best 72), Peter Lovenkrands (Alan Smith 46)
Substitutes Not Used: Stephen Harper, Fraser Forster
Sporting Kansas City – Eric Kronberg, Chance Myers (Michael Harrington 46), Matt Besler, Julio Cesar (Daneil Cyrus 46), Seth Sinovic (Kevin Ellis 62), Kei Kamara (Birahim Diop 46), Jeferson (Luke Sassano 46), Graham Zusi (Milos Stojcev 46), Roger Espinoza (Peterson Joseph 46), Omar Bravo (C.J. Sapong 46), Teal Bunbury (Soony Saad 62)
Substitutes Not Used: Jimmy Nielsen
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee's Assistants: Rob Fereday, James Conlee
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
Weather: Sunny and 99 degrees