Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew SC moved into a tie atop the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings after the sides scrapped to a 0-0 draw on Sunday at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia saved a penalty kick in the 43rd minute before Crew SC were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of halftime when Federico Higuain received a straight red card for a high challenge on Roger Espinoza. The result gives Sporting KC and Columbus 25 points through the first three months of the 2018 campaign, tied with Atlanta United FC for the most in MLS.
Sunday’s scoreless draw marked the continuation of resolute defensive form for both clubs. Sporting KC have conceded just four goals over their last nine matches — the fewest goals conceded in MLS since March 31 — while Crew SC now boast five straight clean sheets and a 495-minute shutout run, giving goalkeeper Zack Steffen the longest such streak in the team’s 23-year history.
Manager Peter Vermes made one change to the Sporting KC lineup from last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC. Injured left back Jimmy Medranda was replaced by veteran Seth Sinovic, who earned his 200th career start for the club in all competitions. Captain Matt Besler, meanwhile, logged his 239th career regular season appearance, moving within one game of tying Davy Arnaud for the all-time Kansas City record.
Columbus entered the fixture with a paltry two goals allowed in six away games this season, and a pedestrian start to proceedings didn’t’ see Sporting KC threaten until the 22nd minute. A driven cross into the box was initially repelled but fell kindly to Daniel Salloi, whose stinging effort was blocked by Milton Valenzuela’s outstretched boot.
The visitors nearly went ahead in the 24th minute when Cristian Martinez served a pinpoint cross to MLS Golden Boot leader Gyasi Zardes, whose powerful header was palmed away by the diving Melia. Shortly thereafter, Besler sprawled out to make a crucial block on Higuain’s strike from the top of the 18.
Espinoza was on the end of Sporting KC’s best first-half chance at the half-hour mark, but his thunderous blast off Khiry Shelton’s neat layoff fizzed wide of the near post and into the side netting.
Two momentous events at the end of the first half changed the course of the match. Crew SC were awarded a penalty kick in the 43rd minute when Melia advanced off his line and tripped Zardes. Referee Robert Sibiga immediately pointed to the spot, but Zardes’ bid for a league-best ninth goal was thwarted when Melia sprung left to push the ball onto the woodwork. Melia, the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, has now saved four of his last six penalty kicks in regular season play dating back to the start of 2017.
A flashpoint moment unfolded just before intermission when Higuain’s studs-up tackle on Espinoza initially went unnoticed. Video Assistant Referee Jorge Gonzalez summoned Sibiga to review the play, however, and Higuain was promptly sent off to give Sporting KC a man advantage for the entire second half.
Temperatures in the 90s created difficult conditions as neither side was able to conjure consistent danger over the final 45 minutes. Sporting KC’s best opportunity came with 51 minutes on the clock courtesy of Shelton. The forward ran onto Ilie’s brilliant through ball and forced Steffen into his first save of the game, then corralled the rebound and struck a curling effort onto the left post.
The narrow miss wouldn’t deter Shelton from asking further questions of the Columbus backline, as his clever pass to Salloi at the top of the box required Steffen to produce another fine save. Yohan Croizet was on the receiving end of Espinoza’s delightful diagonal ball over the top eight minutes later, but the Frenchman’s volley from the left side of the penalty area screamed inches wide.
A notable substitution occurred in the 87th minute when Espinoza exited for 19-year-old homegrown midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, who made his Sporting KC and MLS debut. Kuzain, who has started nine matches this season for USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers, is the first player in club history to progress from the Sporting KC Academy to SPR to the Sporting KC first team.
Sporting KC will return to action next Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park for their second straight nationally televised clash on FS1. Minnesota (5-7-1, 16 points) will visit Kansas City in the second meeting between the clubs in three weeks. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets for the game are available via SeatGeek.com.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 13 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 94 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (7-2-4, 25 points)||0||0||0|
|Columbus Crew SC (7-3-4, 25 points)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic (Cristian Lobato 58); Yohan Croizet (Gerso Fernandes 71), Ilie, Roger Espinoza (Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal 87); Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Emiliano Amor, Gianluca Busio, Kharlton Belmar
Columbus Crew SC: Zach Steffen; Harrison Afful, Josh Williams, Lalas Abubakar, Milton Valenzuela; Wil Trapp (C), Artur, Cristian Martinez (Gaston Sauro 76), Federico Higuain, Mike Grella (Luis Argudo 67); Gyasi Zardes
Subs Not Used: Jon Kempin, Ricardo Clark, Hector Jimenez, Adam Jahn, Niko Hansen
CLB -- Federico Higuain (red card; serious foul) 51+
CLB -- Harrison Afful (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 49
SKC -- Matt Besler (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 94+
|Shots on Goal||3||3|
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referee: Jason White
Assistant Referee: Kevin Klinger
Fourth Official: Daniel Radford
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez