Sporting Kansas City snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 0-0 draw at the Portland Timbers thanks to a seven-save performance from Tim Melia in net. The road result creates a three-way tie for fourth place in the Western Conference standings with Sporting KC holding two games in hand on both the Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers.
Though both sides were missing key starters due to suspension (Liam Ridgewell, Diego Chara) and recent international fixtures (Krisztian Nemeth, Marcel de Jong, Will Johnson, Alvas Powell), Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes was boosted by the returns of Jalil Anibaba (10 matches missed) and Bernardo Anor (18 matches missed) as second-half substitutes after extended absences due to injuries.
A high-tempo first half featured two saves from each side's goalkeeper to leave the match level in a scoreless stalemate. Jacob Peterson nearly capitalized on a moment of miscommunication between Portland Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey and defender Norberto Paparatto in the 19th minute only to see Kwarasey recover in time to deflect the attempt out for a corner kick. In the 33rd minute, Saad Abdul-Salaam was on the end of a throw-in from Matt Besler however his header was straight at Kwarasey.
On the opposite end, Melia made his first save of the match in the seventh minute with a simple stop on Lucas Melano's long-range effort. Melia's highlight moments would then come in the 29th and 49th minutes when he twice turned away the Timbers leading scorer, Fanendo Adi, first with a left-footed kick save and then with a quick-reaction dive to hold onto a header at the goalline.
Melia remained busy as Sporting KC sought the club's first clean sheet in eight matches. The six-year MLS veteran came off his line to thwart Melano in the 58th minute after Argentine Designated Player Diego Valeri had split the defense with a well-weighted through ball. Adi rose high on the ensuing corner to direct a header on target but Melia was again in perfect position to preserve the shutout.
The back-and-forth affair reached peak intensity in the 64th minute with a pair of scoring opportunities in short succession. Graham Zusi's shot skipped past Kwarasey, a fellow veteran of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, only to crash into the post and subsequently spark a counter attack for the Timbers that forced Melia to come 15 yards off his line to take the ball off the foot of Melano in a one-on-one situation.
While Sporting KC was held without a shot on goal in the second half, the home side - with only one loss at Providence Park in 2015, - continued to create chances in search of the game's opening goal and came close in the 66th minute if not for Kevin Ellis' goalline clearance. Sporting KC responded through Dom Dwyer, who turned and let loose a shot that trickled inches wide of the far post in the 70th minute.
Melia matched his single-game career high with his sixth save of the night in the 71st minute, dropping low to smother a free kick from Valeri, then set a new personal record by claiming a header from Maximiliano Urruti in second-half stoppage time. The last time a goalkeeper made more than seven saves and kept a shutout in team history came more than 12 years ago on July 19, 2003 when Tony Meola was credited with eight saves in a 1-0 win at the Columbus Crew.
Sporting Kansas City will now conclude a four-game road trip with a cross-country flight from Oregon to Florida for a nationally-televised match-up with Orlando City SC at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday at the Citrus Bowl. The inaugural meeting between the two sides will air live on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes in the MLS Week 28 Soccer Sunday doubleheader.
2015 MLS Regular Season
Game 26 of 34
Providence Park | Portland, Oregon
Attendance: 21,144 (sell out)
Weather: 80 degrees and sunny
|Sporting KC (11-7-8, 41 pts)||0||0||0|
|Portland Timbers (11-9-8, 41 pts)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler (c), Kevin Ellis, Saad Abdul-Salaam (Jalil Anibaba 62); Soni Mustivar, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber (Jordi Quintilla 95+); Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson (Bernardo Anor 75)
Subs Not Used: Jon Kempin, Amadou Dia, Connor Hallisey, Mikey Lopez
Portland Timbers: Adam Kwarasey; Jorge Villafana, Norberto Paparatto, Nat Borchers, Taylor Peay; Jack Jewsbury, George Fochive (Rodney Wallace 83), Lucas Melano (Maximiliano Urruti 83), Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe; Fanendo Adi (Dairon Asprilla 73)
Subs Not Used: Jake Gleeson, Jeanderson, Anthony Manning, Michael Nanchoff
|Shots on Goal||2||8|
SKC -- Paulo Nagamura (caution; tactical foul) 40
POR -- Lucas Melano (caution; reckless foul) 46+
SKC -- Jacob Peterson (caution; tactical foul) 48+
SKC -- Benny Feilhaber (caution; tactical foul) 68
SKC -- Bernardo Anor (caution; reckless tackle) 94+