By JUSTIN FERGUSON
New England goalkeeper Matt Reis continued his perfect start to 2013, holding off Sporting Kansas City to preserve a 0-0 draw on Saturday.
The Revolution veteran, who missed last week’s 1-0 loss at Philadelphia due to a knee injury, battled both the SKC offense and high winds to keep his second clean sheet of the young season. Reis made five saves in Saturday’s physical match, including a 19th minute stop on a well-struck Benny Feilhaber rebound.
Feilhaber pounced on the ball in the 19th minute after New England’s Clyde Simms deflected a C.J. Sapong shot off the crossbar. The former Revolution midfielder’s shot was handled by Reis, ending SKC’s best offensive sequence of the match.
It was the second straight scoreless draw for Sporting Kansas City, which was missing playmaker Graham Zusi and starting defender Matt Belser. Just like in last week’s 0-0 decision against Chicago, SKC generated more offensive chances but failed to break down the opponent’s defense.
But, unlike the Fire last week, SKC’s opponents created their share of offensive chances. Even though they did not record an official shot until the 77th minute of the match, the Revs looked to play out on the front foot in their home opener. New England held the possession advantage 55 to 45 percent and forced SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to come off his line several times in the match.
The high winds on Saturday seemed to be just as counterproductive to both offenses as the defenses.
“The wind was the No. 1 factor in the game,” Feilhaber said. “It was hard to play too much with that wind and obviously the turf was a little bit tough too. Both teams ended up basically playing a field-position game — almost like it was football — putting it in one end, trying to press and seeing what comes of it.”
Feilhaber’s 19th minute rebound off of Sapong’s deflected shot was the first real chance of the match. Several New England players appealed for a handball penalty three minutes later, but their shouts were waved off. The Revolution’s best chances in the first half came from wind-aided corner kicks that caused problems for Nielsen and his defense.
Both offenses struggled to get good looks in the second half as the wind and persistent fouling interrupted any rhythm. Feilhaber was booked for diving during the 71st minute, just seconds after New England’s Kevin Alston was denied a penalty on the other end of the field.
SKC would get one more shot at breaking the deadlock with seven minutes left. Feilhaber’s corner kick met the head of an Ike Opara, but the header skewed just wide of Reis’s goal.
Sporting Kansas City, which moved to 1-1-2 on the season, returns home to face a perfect Montreal squad next Saturday. New England, now 1-1-1, hosts FC Dallas on the same day.