Impact of Nielsen’s save not overstated

KANSAS CITY, KS - SEPTEMBER 14: Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen #1 of Sporting KC applauds the crowd after the MLS game against the Houston Dynamo at Livestrong Sporting Park on September 14, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen’s recent play has kept the Impact in the MLS playoff hunt.
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Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched away Matteo Ferrari’s header in added time as host Montreal struggled to a 0-0 draw Saturday to keep the Impact in the MLS playoff hunt.

Montreal picked up its first point in three games since ending its team-record five-game winning streak.

Sporting KC, which leads the East with 56 points, is 8-4-3 on the road this season.

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‘‘This was a massive point for us, for sure,’’ Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said. ‘‘A huge opportunity for us to not necessarily separate ourselves immensely, but every one of those points adds up at the end of the season.’’

The Impact claimed their 40th point with the draw, which kept them unbeaten in their last seven at home.

Montreal, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference, had won its six previous home games since a 3-1 loss to Sporting KC on July 4.

‘‘At the end of the day, until somebody tells me that we’re mathematically out of it, we’re still in it,’’ Impact captain Davy Arnaud said. ‘‘The only thing we can now go do is win our next three games and hope that it’s enough.

“We know it’s going to be difficult because teams already have close to the points that we can possibly get, but until we’re out of it we’re going to keep on pushing.’’

Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins made a point-blank stop on Kei Kamara 14 minutes into the game. Justin Mapp had the Impact’s best opportunity in the first half, but his shot went wide of the left post.

Real Salt Lake 2, Timbers 1 — Javier Morales and Fabian Espindola both scored in the first half as the hosts secured a spot in the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

Real Salt Lake (15-11-4) became the second club in MLS history to get at least 15 wins in three straight seasons.

Bright Dike scored in the 61st minute for the Timbers (7-15-8), who remained winless on the road.

Espindola put Salt Lake on the board in the 14th minute and Morales made it 2-0 in the 36th.

Salt Lake played without leading scorer Alvaro Saborio after he suffered a shoulder injury in a 1-0 victory over Tauro FC in Panama on Tuesday. Saborio, second in MLS with 14 goals, is expected to be sidelined at least two weeks.
Fire 2, Crew 1
— Chris Rolfe scored two goals in a little more than three minutes in the first half for host Chicago.

Chicago (16-8-5) won its fourth straight and seventh in the last eight to move 2 points behind Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.