Sporting Kansas City was held to a scoreless draw on Saturday in an MLS Cup rematch with Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Jeff Attinella, making his fifth MLS start in place of the injured Nick Rimando, made a career-high eight saves as Sporting Kansas City outshot Real Salt Lake 20-5 with a 9-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Chance Myers returned to the lineup for Sporting Kansas City, making his 2014 debut following his recovery from a groin strain, and the Sporting KC defense lowered their season goals against average to 0.80 — tied for best in Major League Soccer with Real Salt Lake.
Also making his debut was Spanish midfielder Antonio Dovale, a second-half substitute, and Sporting KC has now used 22 different players through five weeks of the regular season.
Real Salt Lake attempted the first (2nd minute) and last (95th minute) shots of Saturday’s match, but was limited to only three other opportunities throughout the run of play.
Second-year striker Olmes Garcia sent his effort high of the crossbar from 20 yards out in the game’s opening moments while central defender Chris Schuler led the visitors with two shots on Saturday. His left-footed attempt in the 24th minute was smothered by Eric Kronberg, as was his header on the game’s final play.
The lone shot on goal of the game for Real Salt Lake came from the foot of captain Kyle Beckerman on a 45-yard strike that was on target and into the arms of Kronberg, who recorded his second clean sheet of the season and third of his MLS career.
The majority of Saturday’s action came in front of Attinella, beginning in the eighth minute with his save on Graham Zusi and then three minutes later when he did well to deny Dom Dwyer on a breakaway. Attinella added a superb stop to his highlight reel in the 27th minute, pushing Seth Sinovic’s dipping shot from outside the penalty area over the bar.
Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber forced another reaction save seven minutes later as Attinella dove to his right to keep out the well-struck volley. His final save of the first half came in the 42nd minute, darting 15 yards off his line to make a sliding stop on Paulo Nagamura near the right edge of the penalty area.
The second half started with signs of the same frustration for Sporting KC when Aurelien Collin’s header was straight at Attinella and easily held. Zusi then came close to putting Sporting KC ahead in the 51st minute, however his left-footed strike carried inches beyond the far post.
Sporting Kansas City finally found a way past Attinella in the 63rd minute only to see Dwyer’s tightly-angled attempt hit the post and the follow-up from Sal Zizzo blocked in front of the goalline by Nat Borchers.
The reigning MLS Cup champions were reduced to 10 men in the 83rd minute as referee Armando Villarreal sent off Oriol Rosell for his late challenge on Devon Sandoval. Sporting KC had one last chance to claim the full three points in stoppage time as Zusi unleashed a skipping shot from 25 yards out that earned Attinella his eighth save of the match, third most by a goalkeeper in MLS this season.
With the draw, Sporting Kansas City moves within one point of first place in the Eastern Conference while Real Salt Lake keeps its unbeaten record (2-0-3) under new head coach Jeff Cassar intact.
After five straight matches against Western Conference opponents to open the 2014 season, Sporting Kansas City will enjoy a bye in MLS Week 6 before playing host to the Montreal Impact on Saturday, April 19, at Sporting Park.