Recap: Sporting KC clinches playoff spot with 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire

Zusi scores twice; Nielsen records MLS-best 14th shutout

 

Sporting KC clinches playoff spot 
with 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire
 
Graham Zusi scores twice; Jimmy Nielsen records MLS-best 14th shutout;
Sporting KC, now unbeaten in nine, sets club record with 58 points in 2012
 
LIVESTRONG Sporting Park | Kansas City, Kan.
Attendance: 21,010 (LSP record)
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 71 degrees
 
Score                                               
1
2
F
Sporting Kansas City (17-7-7, 58 pts)
1
2
Chicago Fire (16-9-5, 53 pts)
0
0
0
 
      
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen©; Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Lawrence Olum, Chance Myers; Julio Cesar, Paulo Nagamura, Roger Espinoza; Graham Zusi; Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong
 
Subs not used: Eric Kronberg, Michael Harrington, Aurelien Collin, Oriol Rosell, Peterson Joseph, Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad
 
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Austin Berry, Arne Friedrich, Jalil Anibaba; Patrick Nyarko (Guillermo Franco 71), Alex (Dominic Oduro 61), Logan Pause © (Daniel Paladini 80), Alvaro Fernandez; Sherjill MacDonald, Chris Rolfe
 
Subs not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Dan Gargan, Wells Thompson, Corben Bone
 
Stats:              
KC
CHI
Shots                
16      
9
Shots on Goal   
6
1
Saves                
1         
4
Fouls                
13 
11
Offside            
1      
3
Corner Kicks    
3  
6
 
 
Misconduct Summary:
CHI – Arne Friedrich (caution; tactical foul) 23
KC – Paulo Nagamura (caution; delaying a restart) 70
CHI – Gonzalo Segares (caution; dissent) 72
CHI – Gonzalo Segares (ejection; second caution) 94+
 
Scoring Summary:
KC – Graham Zusi 4 (Kei Kamara 6) 11
KC – Graham Zusi 5 (C.J. Sapong 1, Chance Myers 6) 96+
 
(September 28, 2012) – Sporting Kansas City defeated the Chicago Fire 2-0 in front of a record-breaking crowd of more than 21,000 fans at LIVESTRONGSporting Park on Friday. The victory secured a playoff spot for Sporting Kansas City, the first team to clinch a postseason berth in the Eastern Conference, and put Sporting Kansas City just two points behind SanJose in the quest for the Supporters’ Shield.
 
Graham Zusi claimed both goals, increasing his tally to five this season, with the first coming in the 11th minute off of a cross from Kei Kamara and the second arriving in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time off of a low, right-footed effort past Sean Johnson.
 
It was a record-breaking night for Sporting Kansas City. Jimmy Nielsen recorded his League-leading 14th shutout of the season and Sporting Kansas City extended the club’s unbeaten streak to nine games, the longest run of any MLS team this season.
 
Sporting Kansas City’s 58 points lead the Eastern Conference, five clear of second-place Chicago, and set a new club record for a single season.
 
It was the visiting Chicago Fire with the first chance of the match coming in the sixth minute on a counter attack.  Sherjill Macdonald received a long ball deep in the right corner and crossed to Chris Rolfe, who shot from 18 yards out but was just wide of the near post.
 
Three minutes later, Sporting KC responded with a chance of their own from Paulo Nagamura. The Brazilian took a shot from the top of the box that was saved by Sean Johnson.  
 
Johnson could do little two minutes later when the home side opened the scoring on a well-taken shot by Zusi. Kei Kamara created the chance with his run down the right flank  and played a low cross into the penalty area. Zusi dashed to make contact and buried his first-time attempt from 15 yards out past Johnson. Kamara earned his sixth assist of the season, matching his single-season career high.
 
It wasn’t until the 31st minute that another chance materialized for either side, this time for Chicago in the form of a left-footed strike from Patrick Nyarko at the edge of the box that was high and wide of the crossbar. On the opposite end, Zusi’s corner kick was played in perfectly to Kamara at the far post for the striker to connect on a close-range header in the 36th minute. The Sierra Leone international directed his header on target but Johnson was there to make aformidable save, pushing the shot into the crossbar to prevent the goal.
 
The first 10 minutes of the second half were relatively quiet on both ends until the 57th minute when Rolfe sent in a volley from the top of the box that sailed narrowly high. Sporting Kansas City fired back two minutes later when Zusi crossed in a low ball that was pin-balled around the box, finally settling with Kamara for a header that caught Johnson off his line. However, the young goalkeeper still managed to snuff out the dangerous play with an alert recovery. 
 
The home side was back at it again in the 63rd minute when C.J. Sapong charged down the left flank, cut the ball to Roger Espinoza. The Honduran crossed to Kamara, but his shot was collected by Johnson.
 
Chicago’s first shot on goal arrived in the 68th minute when Rolfe chipped in a free kick to the penalty area and the resulting header from Gonzalo Segares went straight to Nielsen. Four minutes later and on the counterattack, MacDonald took a low shot at the top of the box that skirted wide of the far right post.
 
Sporting Kansas City was anything but content to sit back with a 1-0 lead, nearly netting a second goal in the 77th minute when Sapong tipped in a header that was saved by Johnson. Three minutes later, Chance Myers looked to claim hisfirst MLS goal when he received a cross from Julio Cesar and flicked the ball with his head over the crossbar.
 
In the dying minutes of the match, the tension continued to build as Sporting Kansas City looked to hold onto their victory and break club history in the process. Chicago head coach Frank Klopas was sent from the sideline by referee Chris Penso, who showed red to Segares a minute later for his second caution of the match.
 
It was Zusi who drove the victory home in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Myers long service was flicked by Sapong and fell to the feet of Zusi with ample space and options on either side. Zusi controlled and maneuvered to just inside the area before unleashing a curling shot inside the post for his third career multi-goal game.
 
Sporting Kansas City will return to the road to face the Columbus Crew at 3 p.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 7 at Columbus Crew Stadium. The match will broadcast live on KSMO-TV, with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT. 
 
FAST FACTS:
  • Sporting Kansas City is now 17-7-7 on the season and remains in first place in the Eastern Conference with 58 points, extending their lead over second place Chicago to five points.
  • With the win, Sporting Kansas City become the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff spot. If Houston lose or draw against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Sporting Kansas City will clinch one of the top four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 9-3-4 at home in 2012.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 140-75-47 all-time at home and 211-206-107 in the regular season all-time.
  • Sporting Kansas City has the third most home wins in MLS history with 140.
  • Since moving into LIVESTRONG Sporting Park last year, Sporting Kansas City is 18-5-10 at home in the regular season.
  • Sporting Kansas City’s 58 points are second most in MLS, two points fewer than the San Jose Earthquakes.
  • Sporting KC is averaging 1.87 points per game in 2012, also second-best behind San Jose.
  • With the victory, Sporting Kansas City set a club record for most points in a season with 58, surpassing the previous benchmark of 57 set in 2000.
  • Sporting Kansas City’s 17 wins in regulation in 2012 set a new team record, surpassing the club’s 16-win season in 2000.
  • Sporting Kansas City’s .661 winning percentage is on pace to be the best in team history, ahead of the 1997 season (.656).
  • Sporting Kansas City is now unbeaten in their last nine MLS matches. The streak is the longest active unbeaten streak in MLS currently and is the longest undefeated streak by an MLS team this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City is now 11-23-9 against the Chicago Fire all-time and 8-8-7 at home all-time.
  • Sporting Kansas City is now 1-2-0 against the Chicago Fire during the 2012 season.
  • Prior to Friday’s match, Sporting Kansas City last beat the Chicago Fire at home on August 22, 2007.
  • Sporting Kansas City scored their first goal against the Fire at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Friday, coming in the team’s third match at LSP against Chicago.
  • Sporting Kansas City is now 14-2-3 when scoring the first goal in 2012.
  • With the win, Sporting Kansas City snapped Chicago’s four-game winning streak, the Fire’s longest winning streak in seven years.
  • Prior to Friday, the Fire had scored two or more goals in each of their last eight games.
  • Graham Zusi scored the first goal of the match, marking his first goal in seven games. Zusi’s last goal was scored on August 11 when Sporting Kansas City defeated D.C. United 2-1.
  • Kei Kamara earned the assist on Zusi’s first goal, marking his sixth during the 2012 season, which matches his single-season career high previously set in 2010, his first full season in a Kansas City uniform.
  • Kamara’s game-winning assist moves him into a tie for ninth place on Sporting KC’s all-time chart with seven.
  • Zusi also netted Sporting Kansas City’s second goal of the night. The goal was the latest scored in League play at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park since it opened in June 2011.
  • With the brace, Zusi now has five goals on the season, matching last year's single-season career high, and 11 goals in his MLS career during regular season play.
  • Zusi’s multi-goal game was the third of his career and ties him for 10th on Sporting KC’s all-time multi-goal game chart.
  • Sporting Kansas City has scored 37 of their 39 goals from inside the penalty area in 2012.
  • Despite the loss, the Chicago Fire’s five road wins this season mark the second most wins on the road in the East, behind only Sporting Kansas City’s eight.
  • Sporting KC still have the most wins (17) and best goal differential (+14) of all teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 9-1-1 when leading at the half.
  • Sporting Kansas City has won their last 18 matches in MLS competition (including playoffs) when leading at the 75-minute mark.
  • Sporting Kansas City has won 15 of their last 16 matches in MLS competition (including playoffs) when scoring 2 or more goals (15-0-1).
  • Sporting Kansas City is 14-6-6 when wearing Sporting Blue.
  • The Chicago Fire were held to one shot on goal in Friday’s match, tying a team low this season and marking the third time this year for the team to only tally one shot on goal.
  • Sporting KC made three changes to their lineup from Saturday's 0-0 draw at Montreal. Chance Myers replaced Michael Harrington, Roger Espinoza replaced Oriol Rosell and Paulo Nagamura replaced Jacob Peterson.
  • Peterson missed Friday’s match after receiving a red card in Sporting Kansas City’s last match.
  • Nielsen passed Kevin Hartman for the third most regular season games played in team history by agoalkeeper with 91.
  • Sporting Kansas City has three games remaining in the regular season with one at home and two on theroad.
  • Sporting Kansas City has not allowed a header goal in its last 20 games.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 11-0-3 when allowing zero goals this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City has allowed 25 goals in 31 MLS matches for a 0.81 goals against average, the best in MLS this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City has allowed only 11 goals at home this season in 16 matches, the second fewest home goals allowed in the East behind only D.C. United.
  • Jimmy Nielsen is the only Sporting KC player to have played every minute for the club this season.
  • Nielsen has started the most games, 31, and played the most minutes, 2,790, of any MLS player in 2012.
  • Nielsen’s 1.04 career goals against average in the regular season is the best mark in MLS history among goalkeepers with 4,000 minutes played.
  • Nielsen’s 0.81 goals against average this season is on pace to be the best mark in club history,surpassing Tony Meola’s 0.92 goals against average in 2000.
  • The 0.81 goals against average is the best mark in MLS among goalkeepers who have played in more than 15 MLS matches this season.
  • Among goalkeepers who have played in 75 percent of their team’s games in a season, only Nick Rimando (0.67 in 2010) had a lower goals against average than Nielsen in 2012.
  • Nielsen leads MLS with 17 victories and 14 shutouts this season.
  • Nielsen’s 31 regular season shutouts are second most in MLS since 2010 trailing only Nick Rimando.
  • Nielsen has the most wins in regulation by a goalkeeper in club history with 17.
  • Nielsen’s 17 wins are tied for fourth most by a goalkeeper in a single season in MLS history. Nielsen is now only one win shy of an MLS record for wins in a season by a goalkeeper.
  • Frank Klopas was ejected during second-half stoppage time in Friday’s match.
  • Gonzalo Segares was also ejected after he was shown a red card in second-half stoppage time.
  • Klopas and Segares will miss the Chicago Fire’s next match on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 15-5-5 when outshooting an opponent in 2012.
  • Sporting Kansas City outshot the Chicago Fire 16-9 in Friday’s match.
  • Sporting Kansas City has outshot their opponent in 25 out of 31 matches in 2012.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 9-2-4 when the temperature is below 75 degrees at kickoff in 2012.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 9-5-4 in the Central time zone this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 11-5-5 against the Eastern Conference this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 14-6-6 on grass surfaces this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City leads MLS with 509 shots this season and has allowed the fewest shots against (294).
  • The club has led MLS in shots in five of the past seven seasons, finishing first in shots in 2006 (408), 2007 (420), 2010 (393) and 2011 (488).
  • Sporting Kansas City leads MLS in all-time shots taken with 7,158.
  • Graham Zusi leads MLS with 136 corner kicks this season and Sporting Kansas City leads MLS with 185. Both marks are single season records for the club.
  • Kei Kamara now leads MLS with 130 shots this season.
  • Kamara has the second most shots in a single-season by a KC player, behind only Preki (140), and third most in a single-season in MLS history behind Preki (140) and Mamadou Diallo (152).
  • The last time an MLS player attempted more than 130 shots in a season was in 2000 (Mamadou Diallo).
  • Kamara also leads MLS in shots on goal with 48 this season. With two shots on goal on Friday, Kamaraties Vitalis Takawira for the second most in a single season in club history.
  • Sporting Kansas City made no subs on Friday, marking the first time the team hasn’t made any changes in a match in 12 years. Friday was the fourth time the team has made zero subs in an MLS regular season match in club history.
  • Peter Vermes is 46-36-28 in MLS competition (including playoffs). The .545 winning percentage is the best winning percentage of any coach in club history.
  • Friday's match was nationally broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network.
  • Friday night marked Matt Besler’s 100th regular season game played in his MLS career. Besler becomes the 22nd player to reach the milestone in a KC uniform and only the third active player to do so along with Roger Espinoza and Michael Harrington.
  • Sporting Kansas City is undefeated in the last ten games that Roger Espinoza has started for the club.
  • Friday’s match marked Julio Cesar’s 50th MLS game started including playoffs.
  • C.J. Sapong surpassed 4,000 minutes played during his MLS regular season career.
  • Seth Sinovic surpassed 4,000 regular season minutes in his Kansas City career.
  • Sporting Kansas City and LIVESTRONG Sporting Park played host to Breast Cancer Awareness night becoming the first club this year to team up with MLS W.O.R.K.S. to raise funds and awareness for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
  • Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer was set up in the Sprint Plaza on Friday selling their 2013 Year of Hope calendars in which Sporting Kansas City players andchildhood cancer survivors were featured.
  • LIVESTRONG Sporting Park also played host to a high school soccer match following the Sporting KC versus the Chicago Fire game. Park Hill beat local rival Oak Park by a scoreline of 1-0.
  • Boulevard held their launch party for Bob’s 47 at Friday’s match in the members’ club.
  • Match sponsor the Mainstreet Credit Union gave out koozies to the first 15,000 fans to arrive at Friday’s game.
  • Sporting Innovations tested a new mobile app that allowed select users to view multiple camera angles and control replays during Friday’s game.
  • Sporting Kansas City broke an all-time record at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park with 21,010 fans in attendance at Friday’s match.
  • Sporting Kansas City averages 19,402 fans during the 2012 season, which ranks sixth in the League.
  • Sporting Kansas City has now sold out 15 of their 16 home matches in 2012 including 14 straight capacity crowds.