Sporting Kansas City silenced the San Jose Earthquakes en route to a 0-0 draw on Saturday at Avaya Stadium in California, collecting their MLS-leading ninth shutout of the season while remaining at the summit of the Western Conference standings.
The Earthquakes (5-6-5, 20 points) finished the night with just five shot attempts – their fewest all-time in a regular season home game – against a stingy Sporting Kansas City side (7-4-6, 27 points) that moved three points clear of the second-place Portland Timbers and FC Dallas.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia reached a new single-season career-high with his ninth clean sheet through 17 matches.
With his team three days removed from a 4-0 home win over Minnesota United FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the Sporting Kansas City lineup.
Benny Feilhaber replaced Jimmy Medranda in the midfield, while Daniel Salloi made way for Latif Blessing on the left side of a three-man attack.
Defender Seth Sinovic notably made his 150th regular season appearance for Sporting Kansas City, joining a full-strength backline alongside captain Matt Besler, center back Ike Opara and right back Graham Zusi.
The visitors came up with their first threat within three minutes when Feilhaber’s free kick from the left channel was whipped into a crowded penalty area and touched onto the post by San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham.
The subsequent corner kick was played short before Feilhaber squeezed a cross to the feet of Dom Dwyer, who lashed a left-footed effort marginally high and wide of the target.
Feilhaber and Dwyer connected again with a neat give-and-go on the edge of the box in the 28th minute, but Feilhaber’s low blast was blocked by the lunging Andres Imperiale. Three minutes later, a quick break into the attacking third culminated with Gerso dragging a shot wide from distance.
Sporting Kansas City’s marked dominance dragged onward as Feilhaber continued to pull the strings prior to intermission.
His in-swinging corner kick to the near post was nearly nodded goalward by Roger Espinoza, but Cordell Cato was stationed on the goal line to head the ball wide and extinguish the danger. Shortly thereafter, Zusi’s bending free kick skipped a foot wide of Bingham’s right-hand post. The attempt was followed by two Bingham saves on a header from Feilhaber and a deep drive from Gerso.
San Jose finally recorded its first shot in the 53rd minute, but Melia made a comfortable save to deny Jahmir Hyka from long range. Danny Hoesen then hammered a free kick high from 25 yards on the hour-mark.
Medranda replaced Blessing in the 68th minute and almost produced the breakthrough two minutes later, cleverly combining with Dwyer before seeing his 20-yard bullet smothered by Bingham.
Sporting Kansas City striker Diego Rubio returned to the fold as a 76th-minute replacement for Dwyer, making his first appearance for the club since last October after overcoming an ACL injury.
But the first chance following his introduction fell to San Jose, as Hoesen spun on the edge of the box before having his shot saved. The Earthquakes continued to gain a foothold, with Jackson Yueill forcing another stop from Melia with 10 minutes left.
Saturday’s most dramatic moment was saved for the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time when Zusi surged into the box, slipped past Imperiale and fired low on goal, but Bingham thwarted the U.S. international to rescue a point for the Earthquakes.
Sporting Kansas City will return to California next Saturday when they face five-time MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy at StubHub Center. Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City.
– Story from Sporting KC