First, the good news: Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen recorded his league-leading ninth shutout of the season Saturday against the New England Revolution.
Unfortunately, Sporting KC’s attack didn’t generate any goals, resulting in the club’s second straight 0-0 draw at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The draw, coupled with a 2-0 win earlier in the day for the New York Red Bulls against the Philadelphia Union, leaves Sporting KC (11-6-4) in second place in the Eastern Conference.
New England (6-9-5) was dangerous early, including off Benny Feilhaber’s perfectly weighted through ball in the fourth minute into the path of forward Ryan Guy.
Firing at goal early, Guy had a go from 20 yards out, but Nielsen blocked the shot with his forearms and centerback Aurelien Collin cleared it from danger.
Guy would remain a thorn in Sporting KC’s side throughout the half.
He got to the end of Lee Nguyen’s 15th-minute corner kick for a powerful diving header.
But again, Nielsen punched the ball clear as it reached the goal line (and probably won himself a third straight MLS save of the week honor).
He’d get plenty of votes from the 19,080 on hand — the eighth consecutive sellout and ninth in 10th matches for Sporting KC this season.
A few minutes later, midfielder and captain Shalrie Joseph played a nice combination on the right edge of the box with rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe, but Nielsen stepped off his line to intercept the cross as it arrived at the near post.
It would be the 21st minute before Sporting KC, which is known for putting teams under pressure early in games, authored a legitimate chance.
Starting at attacking midfielder after several starts at wing in Bobby Convey’s absence, Jacob Peterson let a second ball settle just outside the box and sent a crackling shot with the outside of his foot that bent inches wide of the right post.
Zusi tried to beat Reis with a 30-yard chip in the 28th minute, but it was gobbled up as it sailed toward the upper left corner.
Five minutes later, Reis punched away a high, floating cross that Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara appeared to have a bead on at the far post.
Scoreless at halftime, an already physical game got even more chippy.
Darrius Barnes picked up a yellow card two minutes into the second half for a reckless challenge on Kamara near the end line on the right flank.
Three minutes later, Michael Harrington, who started in place of Chance Myers (groin strain) at right back, returned the favor, picking up a caution for a hard foul against New England midfielder Chris Tierney.
Matt Besler picked up a yellow card later in the half as well, but through it all Sporting KC began to assert itself.
During the 52nd minute, Convey , who started for the first time since May 19 at Colorado, played a corner kick high to Harrington on the right flank.
Harrington , who is the longest-tenured Sporting KC player, whipped in a low cross into the box for Peterson, whose header toward the far post had to be pushed wide for another corner by a diving Reis.
Midfielder Graham Zusi, who returned from a two-game hiatus with a quad injury, found Kamara wide on the right flank for a 55th-minute cross that eluded both Sapong and Peterson before rolling out of bounds.
The action picked up again in stoppage time — all 12 minutes of it — when Zusi whipped in an early cross that Kamara redirected on frame, but Reis, who recorded his fourth shutout of the season and the Revolution’s first on the road, stopped the shot and collected the gentle rebound at his feet.
The last best gasp for the home side ended with Reis going down with a nasty gash on his forehead courtesy of an unintentional elbow from Kamara as Sporting KC scrambled for the game-winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
New England had a few chances in the 100th minute and beyond, but neither side cracked the scoring column.
Sporting KC, which beat New England 3-0 on March 17, has not lost at home to the Revolution since April 9, 2008, at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.