The Chicago Fire fought long and hard to victory Wednesday night against Sporting Kansas City, halting Kansas City’s five-game win streak and making the Men in Red 3-0-2 in their last five games played at Toyota Park Stadium. The Fire’s home-unbeaten streak extends to seven when considering all competitions.
Chicago set the tone of the game with great stops from João Meira on a dangerous KC attack and goalkeeper Sean Johnson off of the first of many attacking opportunities for KC.
Both teams held equal possession throughout the first quarter of the game leading up to the 22nd minute when Chicago Fire’s 29-year-old Michael de Leeuw tapped a goal into the back of the net off from the top of the six-yard box off of an assist from Razvan Cocis.
Following Chicago’s established lead, the game grew increasingly physical with the first of five yellow cards issued in the 26th minute against the Fire. From that point on, Sporting KC began to hold the majority of possession yet were unable to shoot the ball on target. Despite holding 68% of possession, and outshooting the Fire 19-2, only two shots were on frame.
Tension ran high when 30-year-old KC forward Jacob Peterson missed Sporting’s closest scoring chance of the game, striking the ball past Sean Johnson and off of the post in stoppage time following the end of the first half. The play caught the fire off guard, allowing a dangerous second ball to be played into the box right after.
In the second half, Chicago’s attacking plays were predominantly catalyzed by defensive clearances, as KC remained in their defensive third, posing a constant threat. To the Fire’s coach, Veljko Paunović, the reason behind the team’s limited offensive opportunities was clear.
“Once we recover control of the ball, we need to open up and try to keep possession.”
Paunović admits that they were unable to settle down the ball and connect passes, disallowing them from creating any fluid attacks.
The Fire’s defense held strong keeping KC off of the scoreboard, however, gave up penalties right outside the box allowing some very close opportunities. Johnson saved the day with amazing saves in both the 78th and 87th minute.
KC continued to press and pose a threat to the Men in Red up until the last minute of the match. The last two minutes of stoppage time, KC’s attack was accompanied by their 30-year-old keeper Tim Melia, who pulled himself out of the box in attempt to salvage the team’s winning streak but their efforts proved fruitless.
Despite Chicago’s away match losing streak, this game marks their sixth straight win at home. No losses have been given up at home within the last eight games played at Toyota Park Stadium, giving them great momentum for their U.S. Open Cup match to be played there on July 20th against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who have recently defeated Orlando City 2-1 in the Open Cup quarterfinals.
Sporting KC, having been knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup in the round of sixteen, will continue their regular season, taking on Seattle in the upcoming week.