Sporting Kansas City’s five-game unbeaten run came to an end Wednesday with a 1-0 defeat to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Michael de Leeuw scored the lone goal in the 19th minute of a game delayed nearly two hours due to inclement weather, lifting Chicago (4-8-5, 17 points) out of the Eastern Conference basement and handing Sporting Kansas City (8-9-4, 28 points) its first league defeat since May 27.
Despite outshooting their interconference rivals 19-3 and holding a 68 percent edge in possession, Sporting Kansas City stumbled to a frustrating loss that kept the club in fifth place in the Western Conference table.
Just three days removed from a 3-1 win over New York City FC, Manager Peter Vermes made four changes to the Sporting Kansas City lineup on Wednesday. Center backs Matt Besler and Nuno Coelho earned their first MLS starts since May 21, replacing the rested Ike Opara and Lawrence Olum. In attack, Brad Davis and Diego Rubio made way for Connor Hallisey and Dom Dwyer, the club's top scorer who had served a one-game suspension on Sunday.
The visitors thought they had seized the lead after just two minutes when Dwyer, making his 100th MLS regular season appearance, nodded Feilhaber’s 40-yard free kick low into the corner of the net at the back post. However, Chicago was granted an early reprieve as the Englishman was ruled offside by the slimmest of margins.
Chicago drew first blood in the 19th minute on its only shot attempt of the first period. Following a foul near midfield, defender Brandon Vincent played a quick free kick down the left flank for Razvan Cocis, who crossed the ball into the six yard area. De Leeuw was on hand to tap home from point-blank range, opening his MLS scoring account in just his second league appearance after spending the last six years in his native Netherlands.
Sporting Kansas City’s misfortune was compounded two minutes later when Coelho was forced to exit the match with a left hamstring strain. Opara filled the void for the remainder of the evening, having started every match during the club’s five-game unbeaten run.
Jacob Peterson was on the receiving end of two well-worked buildups before halftime as Chicago reverted into a defensive shape. Saad Abdul-Salaam played the veteran forward into full stride in the 36th minute, but the resulting shot was high and wide of the target. Peterson went even closer to scoring in first-half stoppage time, hitting the post from 12 yards after Hallisey had flashed a low cross into the penalty area.
The unrelenting search for an equalizer extended into the second half as Sporting Kansas City enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in Chicago’s half of the field. Despite its territorial dominance, Vermes’ men were unable to put a shot on goal until the 80th minute, when substitute Brad Davis’ curling free kick was saved by the fully extended Sean Johnson.
The Chicago goalkeeper did even better to deny Dwyer seven minutes later. Medranda received a short corner kick from Davis and whipped a cross into a crowded penalty box, where Dwyer rose above the rest to snap a header goalward. Johnson reacted instinctively, stretching out his left hand to prevent the ball from crossing the goal line.
One last chance fell to Sporting Kansas City in the 91st minute when Dwyer drew a foul on Joao Meira on the edge of the 18. Davis curled the subsequent free kick over the wall and inches wide of Johnson’s lefthand post, allowing the hosts to emerge with all three points.
Next up for Sporting Kansas City in a daunting road test against the Colorado Rapids (9-2-7, 34 points) on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids have been the surprise package in MLS this season — sitting second in the Supporters' Shield table and currently on a club-record 13-game unbeaten run — after finishing last year in the basement of the West. Colorado has won both previous meetings this season, and Sporting Kansas City will look to avoid the sweep in an 8 p.m. CT kickoff broadcast live on 38 The Spot, SKCTV, 99.3 FM and 1340 AM.
2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 21 of 34
Toyota Park | Bridgeview, Illinois
Weather: 74 degrees and cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City (8-9-4, 28 pts)||0||0||0|
|Chicago Fire (4-8-5, 17 pts)||1||0||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Nuno Coelho (Ike Opara 21), Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda; Benny Feilhaber, Soni Mustivar (Justin Mapp 81), Roger Espinoza (C); Jacob Peterson, Dom Dwyer, Connor Hallisey (Brad Davis 58)
Subs Not Used: Alec Kann, Seth Sinovic, Lawrence Olum, Diego Rubio
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Michael Harrington (Rodrigo Ramos 83), Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent; Khaly Thiam, Matt Polster, Arturo Alvarez (John Goossens 68), Razvan Cocis (C), David Accam; Michael de Leeuw (Johan Kappelhof 89)
Subs Not Used: Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Nick LaBrocca, Kennedy Igboananike
|Shots on Goal||2||2|
CHI -- Khaly Thiam (caution; unsporting behavior) 26
SKC -- Soni Mustivar (caution; unsporting behavior) 29
CHI -- Arturo Alvarez (caution; unsporting behavior) 68
SKC -- Dom Dwyer (caution; unsporting behavior) 71
CHI -- Joao Meira (caution; unsporting behavior) 79
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda (caution; unsporting behavior) 85
CHI -- Michael de Leeuw 1 (Razvan Cocis 1, Brandon Vincent 1) 19