All the technical training in the world can’t prepare a club for a goalkeeper who stands in his head, and as a keeper coach nothing pleases me more than to watch a goalie defend his domain.
That was the case tonight (June 22) at PPL Park where visiting netminder Jimmy Neilson helped keep his Sporting Kansas City (SKC) teammates from being blown out by the Philadelphia Union. The Union actually peppered Neilson with 19 shots, seven of which were on frame.
Nielsen came up big in the 27th minute when Philadelphia striker Jack McInerney fired from close-range and again two minutes later when he dove to his right to knock away a well-taken free kick from striker Carlos Ruiz.
The Union kept pressing after the break, nearly breaking the deadlock in the 72nd minute when a cross from Le Toux found Ruiz, who headed it off the crossbar.
Five minutes later, Justin Mapp fired from point-blank range, but once again Nielsen was up to the task.
Obviously, if you are a Union fan you would expect your club to beat the last place team in the Eastern Conference and not settle for 0-0 draw.
Well, there is something you should know about SKC. At the moment, they are playing some of the best soccer in MLS, extending their unbeaten streak to six games and doing so by outscoring their last six opponents 11-2, including a 5-0 win over the New England Revolution and a 4-1 victory against the league’s second overall best team, FC Dallas.
Oh and did I mention tonight’s result was SKC’s fourth straight shutout?
A 0-0 draw is not all bad, especially when you consider the one point earned by Philly helps to keep the Union tied for first place with New York Red Bulls atop the MLS Eastern Conference standings.
The tie also helped Philadelphia extend their home unbeaten streak to nine matches.
Philadelphia’s play in their defensive third of the field was also pretty impressive, allowing SKC just seven shots, only one of which was on goal. Remember, Sporting Kansas City came into the game having scored 11 goals in their last six games, so the fact that the Union were able to emerge from this game with their fifth shutout of the season and that all valuable one point, is a good thing.
Philadelphia returns to action 8:00pm Saturday at PPL Park against Chivas USA.