Despite 27 shots, Sporting KC falls 1-0 to Chicago
Missed opportunities plagued Sporting Kansas City as the Chicago Fire became just the second team this year to defeat the home side at Livestrong Sporting Park, with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.
Marco Pappa’s goal in the 58th minute proved the difference in a match that saw Sporting KC attempt 27 shots only to be stuffed by Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson’s five saves
The loss put Sporting KC (9-5-2, 29 points) four points behind D.C. United in the Eastern Conference and two points behind the second-place New York Red Bulls.
“It was a good performance,” coach Peter Vermes said, “we were just on the wrong side of the result.”
Sporting KC pressured early and often in the first half, with Graham Zusi, Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and Aurelien Collin each helping orchestrate attacks. A stout Chicago defense, and a save by Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen produced a scoreless half.
The only change made by Vermes happened early when defender Lawrence Olum had to exit with a strained groin. Matt Besler, who recently returned after a bout with appendicitis, took the pitch for the remainder of the match.
In the second half, Sporting KC saw a number of chances inside the Chicago area, but the Fire swarmed Kamara with five defenders on his close-range attempt in the 47th minute.
Pappa, a Guatemala international player, scored his fifth goal of the season in the 58th minute to go up (and for good). The score came on a counterattack led by Pappa. He played the ball out wide to Chris Rolfe, who then assisted Pappa on a first-touch strike.
Kamara, Sporting KC’s leading scorer, nearly pulled his team even six minutes later with a header off a Zusi free kick. But the header, one eight shots attempted by Kamara on Saturday, rang high off the crossbar.
Kamara would again nearly come up with an equalizer, this time in the 88th minute. Seth Sinovic sliced a cross to Chance Myers, who sent it to Kamara for another opportunity. The goal, again, proved elusive when Kamara headed it just wide of the post.
With time expiring, Sporting KC ratcheted up the drama, chance after chance coming in the closing moments. First it was Bunbury who forced Johnson to keep the ball just barely out of the net. And, finally, in the 94th minute, Sporting KC saw perhaps its most convincing attempt denied. Soony Saad, a second-half substitute, attempted a booming shot from 10 yards out that was, again, stopped by Johnson.
“I really can’t believe that he saved it,” Saad said. “He just showed great reflexes, and it was really unlucky for me.”
Sporting KC’s 27 shots attempted tied for its season-high total, out-striking by 17. But, in this game, it is the margins of victory and defeat that ultimately matter.
“We were knocking on the door the whole time, and we were all thinking that one was going to go in,” Saad said. “And once we got that first one, we were going to push for a winner. But this happens sometimes in soccer. You can shoot as many shots as you can, but if they have a good goalie and get lucky a couple times, you don’t get the breaks.”
The defeat concluded a 14-day, five-game stretch in which Sporting KC finished 2-2-1. On Wednesday, it begins another such period, with just one game (Friday’s 7 p.m. match against Houston) being at home.
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