Forward Claudio Bieler scored in the 89th minute and Sporting Kansas City defeated D.C. United 1-0 on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 18,988 at Sporting Park.
The clean sheet was Jimmy Nielsen's league-leading fourth straight, and the club's shutout streak now stands at 429 minutes. It's the team's second-longest such streak since 2000.
During the postgame press conference I attended, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said there's only one really good thing about shutout streaks.
Vermes said, "It's only good that we don't give up goals. That's the great thing. I care less about the streaks. It's great when you don't give up goals. I say it all the time, if you don't give up goals, you not only get results but I think you set yourself up as time goes on to be able to win the important games because you're not giving the easy chances away."
If you were to describe the match in one word, disjointed would be a good choice. Neither team seemed to be linking up all that well from the back and there were very few chances to speak of for either team. The best line of the night from the press box came from MLSSoccer.com beat writer Steve Brisendine with this tweet:
Another sign that a game's pretty ugly is when you have more yellow cards (five) than shots on goal (three).
Referee Armando Villareal is only in his second year in the league, and it showed. He let too much go in the first half and tried to get control back with yellow cards in the second half. Call it tight early and you don't have those problems.
Both teams did have one good scoring chance in the first half. In the 18th minute, defender Matt Besler put in a long throw-in from the left side and found Bieler's head, but the shot went wide right.
Just before halftime, DC United forward Lionard Pajoy dribbled through three Sporting KC defenders, but his shot was wide left of the near post. If that sounds bad, it's because it was.
Besides the goal, the other good scoring chance for Sporting KC came in the 64th minute. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber drove into the 18-yard box and passed to his right for Bieler, who gave it right back. Feilhaber's shot was across the goal mouth and wide right.
D.C. United's good scoring chance of the second half came in the 81st minute when a Sporting KC clearance came out to defender Chris Korb.
Korb's pass found midfielder Perry Kitchen, who popped it up to his left. Carlos Ruiz connected on an overhead bicycle kick, but it was well-saved by Nielsen. It wouldn't have counted if it had gone in, Ruiz having been flagged for offside, but Nielsen didn't know that.
Second-half substitute Soony Saad and Sporting KC's high-pressure style of play created an opportunity to grab the win in the 89th minute.
Midfielder Marcos Sánchez got sloppy deep in the United half and Saad stole Sánchez's pass to Marcelo Saragosa. Saad then nutmegged Saragosa and crossed the ball to Bieler just outside the six-yard box. Bieler one-timed the ball with his left foot into the back of the net past an outstretched Bill Hamid.
During the postgame press conference, Saad was asked what his favorite part of that play was. Saad said, "I think my favorite part of the play was Claudio (Bieler) hitting in the back of the net. Just watching it hit the back of the net and the stadium going crazy."
Sporting KC has next weekend off before traveling to Red Bull Arena for a match with New York on Wednesday, April 17. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EDT.