Nielsen diving save vs. Houston - DL
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As offense sputters, Sporting KC stress defensive dominance



The way Sporting Kansas City see it, their stifling defensive performance outweighed their inability to put the ball in the net.

“I thought it was a very, very, very good performance for us tonight,” manager Peter Vermes said after Saturday night’s scoreless draw against the Houston Dynamo. “I think we dominated the game.”

That was true everywhere but the scoreline for Sporting, which moved back into a first-place tie with D.C. United in the Eastern Conference.

WATCH: Full Match Highlights

Sporting shut down Houston’s dangerous set-piece game, conceding no corners and only three free kicks in their own half and outshot the Dynamo 17-7, all in triple-digit heat that forced Kansas City to alter their usual high-pressure defensive style to avoid fouls caused by fatigue.

“That was the last thing we said before the game: ‘We have to eliminate the fouls and the set pieces,’” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. “We know they’re very good at those. Brad Davis (above, left) serves a very good ball. So we had to get back in position quick and early. When you’re in position early, you limit the fouls. I think we did an unbelievable job of that today.”

Communication was a key to that performance, right back Chance Myers said.

“When we’d turn over the ball in a bad position for us, we needed to make sure we got back and stayed close to each other,” Myers said, “not one guy going and leaving the other guy on an island. That’s a recipe for disaster. We did a good job of helping the guy closest to us.”

That performance made getting shut out in three of the last four league matches more bearable, if not pleasant.

“You want to score, for sure,” Vermes said, “but you can’t mistake performance for what the result is at the end of the day. We controlled the game in a lot of different respects. We switched the point of attack. I thought our ball circulation was good. The possession was way in our favor, or it should have been.”

And, he said, Houston’s defense deserved some credit as well for the shutout.

“They had a lot of numbers -- especially as we moved up the field, they had a lot of numbers in and around their goal,” Vermes said. “When we got wide, they just dropped everything back inside and closed down the space that we had to play in through the central channel.”