It certainly wasn't the prettiest nor the best game that Sporting KC has played all season, but Kansas City got out of New York with a point, and with other results around the league clinched a top 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls also clinched a playoff spot, but that result was certainly less assured before the game started.
With New York still outside the playoffs when the game started, they were the ones that dictated play not only early on, but throughout the game. Much of the early part of the game was played in KC's half of the field. The roles were basically reversed from the way that KC normally plays. KC was the team that was under the high pressure this time. New York though didn't get a really good look at goal until the 20th minute. KC had looked weak on earlier corners but more so here. Kei Kamara won the first header but only cleared it as far as Heath Pearce who played the ball back into the middle of the box where Tim Cahill was lurking in front of Jimmy Nielsen. The ball bounced off Nielsen's foot and off of Aurelien Collin and into the arms of Nielsen as he went to crowd. Nielsen covered up as Cahill tried to get in, smothering the chance. Nielsen was called into action again in the 23rd minute as Dax McCarty struck a shot from distance, Nielsen got down well and parried the ball away but right into the path of Kenny Cooper. Cooper though from an acute angle with Matt Besler and Nielsen closing down put his shot well over the bar to keep the scores level. KC didn't have much going forward, but CJ Sapong forced a good save from Luis Robles later in the half. Sapong chased down a loose ball in the box, getting there before Robles. Sapong cut outside and tried to chip the ball over Robles and into the middle, but Robles got a hand up and palmed the cross out for a corner. New York continued their pressure and again Nielsen came to KC's rescue in the 41st minute. A long ball by the New York defense was headed down by Cahill into the path of Cooper. Cooper one timed his shot on frame, but Nielsen got a hand up and knocked the ball out for a corner.
Things didn't change in the second half as New York continued to throw numbers forward and KC continued to struggle to complete passes. Nielsen was again called to make a big save in the 52nd minute. After a give away near midfield, Cahill found himself racing down the wing. He played the ball in to Thierry Henry who was in the box. Henry's first touch let him down a little though allowing Nielsen and Besler to recover. Henry's shot was saved by Nielsen and deflected off of Henry to give KC a goal kick. KC's defense continued to struggle with New York's high pressure, giving the ball away much too easily. Again in the 65th it almost cost them McCarty won a ball in KC's half of the field, getting the ball to Cooper. Cooper played the ball to Henry at the top of the box. Henry turned and faked both Collin and Julio Cesar. Both got turned and Henry went towards goal firing a shot from about 13 yards out. Nielsen though got a hand up and saved the shot again. Henry followed the play though, collecting the rebound and tried to square the ball to Cahill who had an open net. Besler slid in though knocking the ball up into Nielsen's face. The ball fell right in front of the Dane, who collected the ball, ending the chance. New York started to tire late on and that's when KC finally started to create some offense of their own. In the 86th minute after some sustained possession, Graham Zusi played a lofted ball to the back post for Kamara. A cross similar to the one that Eddie Johnson scored for the US off a Zusi assist. Kamara put the header on frame, but Robles made the play unlike the Antigua keeper, keeping the score 0-0. New York had one last really good chance in the 88th minute as Cahill tried to head a ball into the path of McCarty. Besler got in the way though but couldn't get enough on it to clear the ball away. The ball fell to McCarty who hit the shot first time low, but Nielsen again got down covering the shot to keep it scoreless.
Wizards Man of the Match - Jimmy Nielsen - Could it be anyone else? Besides much of the rest of the team struggling to get going, Nielsen came up huge time and again last night, he made a number of world class saves to keep the game scoreless, an extremely good night from him that should cement his goalkeeper of the year credentials as he picked up his 15th shutout of the year.
Honorable Mention - Matt Besler
Player Ratings - Nielsen 9, Myers 5, Collin 6, Besler 7, Sinovic 5, Cesar 5, Nagamura 5, Zusi 4, Peterson 4, Sapong 4, Kamara 5. Subs Olum 4, Convey NR.