Aug. 4, 2021) — Sporting Kansas City (10-4-4, 34 points) moved into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference following a resolute 0-0 draw against the Colorado Rapids (8-4-4, 28 points) on Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia had three excellent saves en route to his third shutout of the season, snapping Colorado’s streak of 32 straight MLS home matches with a goal. Sporting’s first goalless draw in the regular season moves the club one point clear of second-place Seattle Sounders FC in the West and just three points behind the New England Revolution in the Supporters’ Shield race.
Navigating a congested run of seven matches in 22 days, Sporting Kansas City deployed a reshuffled starting XI headlined by an MLS debut for forward Grayson Barber and the first start of the season for fellow Clemson alum Amadou Dia. Sporting KC Academy product Wilson Harris notably joined Harris in attack and center back Roberto Puncec earned his first appearance since May 9 as Manager Peter Vermes deviated from his signature 4-3-3 formation with a 3-5-2 setup.
The visitors spent extended periods of the first half extinguishing Colorado pressure with Nicolas Isimat-Mirin serving as the backline anchor. The Frenchman did brilliantly to recover and make a sliding block on Michael Barrios’ strike inside the penalty area in the sixth minute. Barrios almost opened the scoring near the half-hour mark, but his decadent chip shot carried inches over the bar as Melia rushed off his line.
Barber and Harris asked questions of the Colorado defense in the 26th minute when the former cut the ball back to the latter, but the ensuing shot was blocked through traffic. Shortly thereafter, Barber galloped forward on a counterattack and fired high from 22 yards. At the opposite end, Colorado debutant and Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye stretched to put a shot on frame that Melia collected confidently in the 37th minute
After Sporting midfielder Remi Walter’s blistering 30-yard drive flashed narrowly wide, Melia bailed his team out with a stunning kick save on the cusp of intermission to deny Colorado captain Jack Price and keep the game scoreless.
Vermes’ men returned to their familiar 4-3-3 formation at the start of the second half as Luis Martins replaced Dia and Cam Duke entered for Puncec. Another reinforcement came in the form of Mexican international striker Alan Pulido, who relieved Harris in the 59th minute. Sporting’s depth was flexed further two minutes later as Isimat-Mirin was forced to exit with an injury, prompting the introduction of Academy product Kaveh Rad.
Pulido went agonizingly close to firing Sporting ahead in the 66th minute, racing onto an excellent diagonal ball from Gadi Kinda and unleashing a side-footed effort that deflected off Colorado defender Lalas Abubakar and nestled a fraction wide into the side netting.
Sporting breathed a huge sigh of relief in the 73rd minute when Melia applied the slightest of touches on a close-range attempt from Colorado substitute Jonathan Lewis after the U.S. international had latched onto a teasing Cole Bassett cross.
Melia’s sublime performance was further punctuated in the 75th minute when he conjured a terrific reflex save to thwart former Sporting striker Diego Rubio, who had planted a strong header goalward off Price’s corner kick.
Sporting continued to defend resolutely and although Rubio was on the receiving end of another big chance in the 92nd minute, he was unable to steer his header on target after Bassett unfurled another probing delivery into the box.
With a hard-fought road result in the rearview mirror, Sporting will now switch gears in preparation for a highly anticipated Leagues Cup quarterfinal clash with LIGA MX powerhouse Club Leon on Tuesday at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the 7 p.m. CT showdown are available at SeatGeek.com and the match will air live nationally on ESPN2 and TUDN.