Recap: SKC open LSP with 0-0 draw vs Fire

Third straight draw comes in front of 19,925 fans at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

MLS Game #11
Saturday, June 14, 2011, 9:00 p.m. CT

English TV: ESPN2
Spanish TV: ESPN Deportes
English Radio: Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio: La Gran D 1340 AM

LIVESTRONG Sporting Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather:  Clear, 91°F
Attendance: 19,925
Video: Match Highlights

Score:         1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (1-6-4, 7 pts) 0 0 0
Chicago Fire (1-4-8, 11 pts) 0 0 0

Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen; Michael Harrington, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Chance Myers; Luke Sassano, Davy Arnaud © (Birahim Diop 85), Graham Zusi; Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury (Eric Kronberg 68), Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 59) 

Subs not used: Seth Sinovic, Julio Cesar, Milos Stojcev, Ryan Smith

Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Bratislav Ristic, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares; Dominic Oduro, Logan Pause ©, Daniel Paladini, Corben Bone (Patrick Nyarko 56); Gaston Puerari (Diego Chaves 71), Cristian Nazarit (Orr Barouch 77)

Subs not used: Jon Conway, Dasan Robinson, Michael Videira, Baggio Husidic

Stats:                            SKC       CHI
Shots 11 10
Shots on Goal 5 4
Saves 4 5
Fouls 5 15
Offside 2 2
Corner Kicks 5 2   

Misconduct Summary:
SKC – Michael Harrington (Caution, reckless tackle) 21
CHI – Gaston Puerari (Caution, Tactical Foul) 37
CHI – Cristian Nazarit (Caution, Reckless Foul) 57
SKC – Jimmy Nielsen (Ejection, Denied Goal Scoring Opportunity) 67
SKC – Aurelien Collin (Caution, Tactical Foul) 98+

Scoring Summary: 
None

Sporting Kansas City opened the state-of-the-art LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Thursday night, playing to a 0-0 draw with the Chicago Fire. The grand opening was played in front of a capacity crowd of 19,925 as well as a national television audience watching on ESPN2 in the MLS Primetime Match of the Week. Lance Armstrong as well as Chad Ochocinco were in attendance as well as many other local dignitaries and officials on a historic night for soccer in Kansas City. 

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity midway through the second half, but reserve goalkeeper Eric Kronberg entered the match to preserve the shutout for Sporting Kansas City in a match that saw plenty of chances for both sides. 

The first chance of the match was earned by Sporting Kansas City in the fifth minute of play. After seeing the ball out of play on the right hand side, midfielder Luke Sassano delivered a long throw-in into the area. Defender Chance Myers, pushing forward on the play, got to the end of it, but Myers’ header lacked the requisite power and was no problem for Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

In the ninth minute, second-year midfielder Corben Bone earned the first chance for the Fire. Picking up the ball on the left edge of the penalty area, Bone cut inside both Myers and Matt Besler and unleashed a right-footed effort to the near post, but Nielsen did well to get a strong hand behind the shot and deny any rebound chance.

Six minutes later, Sporting Kansas City thought they had scored the first ever goal in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Some neat work from Kei Kamara saw the forward split two markers thirty five yards from goal. Kamara laid a low cross across goal that looked to be intended for Omar Bravo. The pass went beyond Bravo, though, and found an unmarked Graham Zusi at the far post. Zusi’s easy pass into the back of the net was met with jubilation from the home crowd, but was called back seconds later due to Bravo being offside on the initial pass. 

The 28th minute saw the next great chance of the match, and again it was Zusi at the center of it all. In a neat combination move on the left, Zusi played a quick one-two with Teal Bunbury at the top of the box. Bunbury’s pass allowed Zusi a strike at goal, but the midfielder’s effort fizzed just over the bar. 

After absorbing a bit of pressure in the middle part of the first half, Chicago answered back with a chance of their own, this time through Dominic Oduro. Receiving the ball on the right, Oduro let loose a stinging drive at goal that left Nielsen with no choice but to parry out of danger. 

The final chance of the first half fell to Sporting Kansas City. Zusi, with time and space at the edge of the area, picked out a streaking Bravo who had timed his run in behind the Chicago backline. Bravo attempted to head the chipped pass beyond Johnson, but didn’t get enough power behind the effort as the sides went into the half level at 0-0. 

The second half saw early attacking substitutions for both sides as Patrick Nyarko entered the match for Bone, and rookie forward C.J. Sapong was inserted into match in place of Kamara for Sporting Kansas City. Two minutes after coming on, Sapong was presented with a chance. Following an outswinging free kick from Bravo, Sapong rose unmarked in the area, but mistimed his jump as his header floated harmlessly over the bar. 

The 67th minute brought the first red card in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park history, and the fourth of the 2011 season for Sporting Kansas City. A chipped ball behind the Sporting Kansas City backline left Dominic Oduro with only Nielsen to beat. Oduro elected to try and lob a shot over the head of the onrushing Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper. 

Despite being outside of the area, Nielsen still extended his hand to stop the ball from traveling beyond him. It was an easy decision for referee Michael Kennedy, as he showed a straight red card to Nielsen for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Following Nielsen’s ejection, Sporting Kasnas City manager Peter Vermes was forced to substitute reserve goalkeeper Kronberg into the match for Bunbury. 

In the 79th minute, Chicago saw the best chance of the match go begging. Picking up the ball at the edge of the area, midfielder Daniel Paladini struck a dipping effort that bounced at the feet of Kronberg and back into traffic. The subsequent rebound fell to substitute forward Orr Barouch just outside the six-yard box. Barouch took the rebound first-time and smacked his effort against the crossbar, and out of danger. 

Six minutes later there were claims for a penalty from Sporting Kansas City. Following a flick-on header from Sapong, Zusi touched the bouncing ball into the area for Bravo. After taking a touch to settle the pass, Ristic tackled the ball away, and left Bravo down in the box for several minutes. 

Sporting Kansas City now faces a quick turnaround for their next match. The team travels this weekend to Frisco, Texas to take on FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. CT. The match will be broadcast live on KSMO TV.

Fast Facts:
     - Sporting Kansas City is now 1-6-4 in 2011 and is currently in ninth position in the Eastern Conference.
     - Sporting Kansas City is 10-21-9 all-time against Chicago and 7-7-7 all-time at home in the series.
     - With the draw, Sporting Kansas City moves to 11-2-3 all-time in home openers. 
     - Prior to the match, Sporting Club announced THECOOLTV as a founding partner of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. THECOOLTV will be the official music content partner, event production partner and alpha technology partner of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. THECOOLTV will also receive the naming rights to the Members Club, a first-of-its-kind space reserved for Sporting Club members.
     - The National Anthem was performed by Ida McBeth, and featured a fireworks display as well as a flyover from a B2 Stealth Bomber.
     - Pre-match festivities included the launch of the Live at LSP concert series in the Sprint Plaza. The Brody Buster band served as the opening act for the Republic Tigers in the first edition of the concert series. 
     - Fans in attendance tonight were gifted with a commemorative print of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The original painting, by local Kansas City artist Mike Savage, was displayed in the stadium’s Shield Club.
     - Lance Armstrong attended tonight’s match and addressed the capacity crowd prior to kickoff, welcoming them for the first time to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. 
     - NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco also made the trip to Kansas City for the match. Ochocinco trialed with Sporting Kansas City in March of 2011 due to the NFL lockout and was named an honorary member of the club’s reserve team. 
     - Defender Michael Harrington surpassed the 10,000-minute mark for Sporting Kansas City.
     - Due to the yellow card awarded to Harrington in the first half, the defender will serve a one match suspension due to yellow card accumulation. 
     - Nielsen will also serve a one-match suspension as a result of the red card he was shown in the second half. 
     - The red card shown to Nielsen was the fourth red card of the season suffered by Sporting Kansas City. It is also the second in as many matches against the Fire in 2011, after Omar Bravo was sent off at Toyota Park on March 26th, 2011, also for denying a goalscoring opportunity. 
     - The clean sheet for Sporting Kansas City is the team’s second of the 2011 season after shutting out Toronto FC on June 4th at BMO Field. 
     - Following the draw, Sporting Kansas City is now unbeaten in four straight matches in MLS play.
     - Sporting Kansas City was without four first team players due to international duty. Midfielders Stephane Auvray and Craig Rocastle as well as defenders Shavar Thomas and Roger Espinoza were all unavailable due to international duty. 
     - Chicago was without playmaker and joint top scorer Marco Pappa, who is currently representing Guatemala at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

QUOTES

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On his team’s performance…
Let me first start by saying that tonight obviously was an incredible night. I want to say thank you to the ownership group for making this opportunity possible for all of Kansas City and the game of soccer. There's not a better place in the world to play a game, bar none. To the fans, I hope you enjoy this for many games to come because we finally have a home for many games to come. 

In regards to our team and the energy we had tonight, I thought the energy was very good from the opening whistle. I thought we created a couple very good chances in the first half. Unfortunately on the situation with Jimmy (Nielsen), he had to make a decision after he committed himself to come out and he did what a goalkeeper does. He put his hands up to try to make a save and unfortunately he was outside of the box. It was a good call by the official and the linesman was in a good position to make the decision. 

I'm proud of the way we played, even with 10 men at the end of the game. We did everything we could to hang on to the point. It took a lot of courage and energy by our team to at least keep them at a level shot. I'm very proud of the guys and how they handled it.

On the excitement coming into the game…
I knew going into the game it would be hard to keep the horses back, if you will, because of the excitement. It's a new stadium and everything else. We were all over them. Credit to them, they absorbed the pressure. We had a couple chances early and even in the last couple minutes of the first half with the Omar (Bravo) header. But we had a lot of good chances in the first half. They had one great counter attack but I thought we did a great job recovering and holding the game back. 

On the crowd…
I think the crowd can affect you in a lot of ways. I think that was a big thing we miscalculated on the 10-game road trip. That there is a complete disconnect with the fan base. You almost lose your sight on who you're playing for. It's not yourself, the organization and the team. There is this fan base out there but you never get to see them (at games). When you come back home and you get out there to play and they're cheering for you, the adrenaline gets going and you think 'I can make that run again and again and again.' Everywhere we've been, we have been the enemy. We never really got too much love in those places. When you come home, the crowd is like the 12th man and tonight they for sure were.

Sporting Kansas City captain Davy Arnaud

On the home opener…
It's disappointing in a way for us to not get those three points. Having said that, I thought the atmosphere, the fans, the stadium and everything we've been waiting for was bigger and better than I thought it ever could be. I thought tonight showed what soccer has become in Kansas City. We packed the place out and the fans created an incredible atmosphere, one I haven't seen in this city before. In terms of that, it was exciting for us. If they keep coming out like that, we're going to keep giving them everything we have. The wins are going to come for us and the goals are going to come for us. 

On the resiliency of the team, even with the red card…
We still went, like Peter (Vermes) said. Playing with ten men is hard. At the end of the day, realistically you want to get away with three points. It is not the first time we've been down to 10 this year. We've been in this situation before and done fairly well. To not come away with three points was disappointing for us. We wanted to give that to the fans.

On playing in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park for the first time…
I'm telling you, that's the first time that I really felt that in this city with a whole stadium. You could feel that vibe in the entire stadium. It was more than I could have ever imagined. It was a great night in this city for soccer.  I think walking out on the field when you saw the whole stands and saw the fans, it was an amazing moment. When Ida McBeth sang the national anthem, that was another moment when you think about the situation and how special it is. 

Sporting Kansas City defender Michael Harrington

On opening a brand new stadium…
It’s everything you wish for and dream about, playing in a big stadium like that. All of the fans were amazing. There was maybe one time when it got quiet. Throughout the whole game the fans were loud, the atmosphere was amazing. 

On the team’s outlook for the remaining home games…
I feel like we can lock it down. If we keep getting support like that, I feel like without a doubt we’re going to get the wins and we’re going to start playing better. 

On the team’s recent defensive performances…
We’re doing great defensively. We’re shutting teams down, we’re not letting them score. I feel like we need to check-up on ourselves as scorers, and me as an attacker, we have to start putting some balls in the nets and start getting some wins.

Sporting Kansas City striker Omar Bravo

On the play in the penalty area at the end of the game…
I felt like it was a foul, but didn’t really realize what was going on. All I knew is that my back hurt. 

On the severity of the injury…
It’s just circumstances regarding the sports hernia injury I had. It’s probably even from last year. I hope that it’s just painful, and that’s it.

On how the injury will effect him…
I don’t feel like I have an injury. I feel pain in my back and that’s it. I think I should be alright. 

On his availability for Sunday…
Yes, I want to play on Sunday.

On whether he thought a penalty should have been given…
I don’t want to get into it that much because that is part of sport. This is soccer. It happens, and everyone makes mistakes. All I know is that my back hurts a lot.

On the fan support in the stadium…
It’s a different atmosphere from other stadiums, but I’m glad that the fans came in and supported the team. I want to tell the fans to keep coming back and the goals will come. 

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Eric Kronberg

On opening the stadium…
It’s like nothing I’ve never experienced before. Just when I was walking out to go to warm-ups I got chills. It’s a really special thing and I’m really blessed to be a part of it.

On finally having a home crowd support…
On the play where Omar (Bravo) was offside and Zusi finished, I couldn’t even hear myself think, the crowd was going so wild. I think pretty soon we ought to start finishing our chances.

On back-to-back shutouts…
It’s obviously good, defensively we really kind of honed in on how we want to play.

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler

On having a state-of-the-art stadium in his hometown…
The atmosphere was unbelievable, electric. The fans backed up all their talk with how loud it was going to be. We didn’t get a win, but there’s sixteen more games. We’re looking forward to it, going a man down is tough. There will be goals to cheer about.

On the emotion of Thursday’s match…
It feels great. I almost had to concentrate on not being too pumped up. I was really pumped up right at the opening whistle, but I think I held my emotions pretty well.

Sporting Kansas City striker Kei Kamara

On Kansas City’s sell-out crowd…
It was a great atmosphere. They’re so great, they actually pushed me through the first half. Physically I was just dead. I really wanted to be a part of this special event here. I tried to push myself but my body wasn’t there. I feel bad that I wasn’t able to help the team out and give the fans something to cheer about but we always say thanks to all of them that came out. Again, a great atmosphere, for sure we’ll give them some wins.

On finally returning home after 10-game road trip…
Everyone was so pumped. I was getting tired and everyone was too excited and working each other too hard. Ten games is done and it feels like the beginning of a new season. With every point we just got to move forward.

Sporting Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury

On opening the stadium…
Playing one of a kind stadium, all the fans, it was amazing. A little less than 20,000, always in an environment like that playing is fun. As a player, I love playing with crowds like that. The atmosphere was amazing.

On the club’s supporters…
It feels good. I feel like, especially in soccer, that this a sport where home field advantage plays a big part. You really get into things. The fans were amazing.

On the attack being held scoreless for the last two games…
My job is to score. I haven’t done that in a while. I take responsibility for that. We’ve got to keep working on it and the goals will come.

Chicago Fire Manager Frank Klopas

On the match…
Obviously, this is an amazing stadium. You come here and you see -- because I happened to play here in 1996 -- in a short time how far this sport has come. To be back here and see something like this is truly fantastic. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. I thought the first half, both teams had opportunities. We could have been a little better in the final third. In the first half, for some of the opportunities we had, our movement could have been better. 

Obviously, I thought the second half when we were a man up, we could have done a little better in the final third. I thought we were predictable with the ball. Our movement wasn't great. We could have been a little bit sharper. It was a well-fought game. I thought the fans enjoyed it. For the second game in a row, we've had a clean sheet. When you do that, you always give yourself an opportunity to win. But in the final third, our ideas and our movement have to be better.

On missed opportunities…
As a forward, I thought Orr (Barouch) took it well. I don't think he's a guy that was thinking about it too much. He came and instinctively took the shot. The ball hit the post and went out. We are a team that has created goals and I think we just have got to start finishing or get lucky and have the ball hit the post and go in. 

On the differences between 1996 and tonight…
It was truly amazing. Driving up and seeing the stadium here…I've been in Europe, I've traveled the world as a player and this is just an incredible stadium. It is just amazing thinking back to 1996 when I played here and now it is just amazing, not only with the stadium but to see how far the sport has come. To see a stadium like this with the fan support they have, is truly wonderful and it is going to be a difficult place for teams to come and get points.

Let me tell you, in Arrowhead I could pick out my relatives. So it was a little bit different. I couldn't do that tonight. It's just different. Obviously, it’s different with a soccer-specific stadium. It was an honor to be here and to be a part of this. I know the players truly enjoyed it. 

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson

On the shutout… 
It’s great, we played really solid defensively, we stressed over the last couple games being compact, being on the same page and I think it worked tonight. It’s definitely a good thing when you can string shutouts together, when your units cohesive. 

On LIVESTRONG Sporting Park…
It was great, I think the atmosphere was awesome, the stadium was packed, the fans were loud, I think you know it’s loud when you’re talking to you back line and you have trouble communicating, it’s definitely a great atmosphere and many people will enjoy playing in this stadium.

Chicago Fire midfielder Orr Barouch

On his shot off the crossbar… 
It was a good shot. I was open for a rebound which came and I just tried to place it and I was a little bit unlucky and hit the post and went out.

On LIVESTRONG Sporting Park…
Great atmosphere, great fans, very nice stadium, probably one of the nicest in the MLS.

On his role as a second-half substitute…
My instructions were to stay up high because we were up a man, try to get the ball as high as I can and try to get a goal and build up offensively. I was trying to help the team out and hold the ball up there and I did what I could.