Sporting Kansas City 2, Chicago Fire 0 | MLS Match Recap
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Until the closing minutes, Sporting Kansas City were left to wonder whether a missed first-half opportunity would leave them waiting one more week to qualify for the postseason. Then Graham Zusi made the worries moot, and Dom Dwyer put his name on yet another line in the record book, and Kansas City are in the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
Zusi scored in the 80th-minute goal and assisted on Dwyer's insurance header in stoppage time, lifting Sporting to a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Friday night. Dwyer's goal was his 21st of the MLS season, extending his team record, and tied Preki's record of 22 goals across all competitions from the club's and league's first season in 1996.
It was Andy Gruenebaum's second straight clean sheet for Sporting (14-11-7) since reclaiming the No. 1 spot, and it broke a three-match home losing streak for the defending MLS Cup champions. Chicago saw their winless streak extended to seven matches.
Lovel Palmer brought down Benny Feilhaber in the area in the 12th, but Dwyer put his spot kick over the bar. It was his first missed penalty in MLS play this season after six straight conversions, leaving him one short of Preki's record of seven converted penalties – also from 1996.
Chicago came close to taking the lead in the 21st minute, when Quincy Amarikwa got off a shot from close range after the ball pinged around the 18, but Gruenebaum made a sprawling reaction save – one of four stops in the first half – to deflect it out for a corner.
It was Sean Johnson's turn to come up big in goal, just after the half-hour mark. Feilhaber got off a shot that was headed just inside the right post – but the Fire 'keeper palmed the ball onto the woodwork and then smothered the deflection.
Sporting got a brief open-goal look in the 76th minute, when Johnson came out to challenge for a ball but instead deflected it off Zusi and into space. Zusi took a shot from a tight angle, but defender Bakary Soumare slid to knock it away.
Four minutes after that, though, Zusi delivered the match-winner. He took a pass from defender Kevin Ellis, dribbled through defenders into the top right of the Fire's penalty area, and unleashed a left-footed shot that sailed over Johnson's outstretched right hand and into the upper left corner of the net.
Dwyer salted the result away in the second minute of stoppage time, heading home Zusi's cross and then backflipping into the corner in celebration.
Gruenebaum finished with six saves – including a sliding foot save on Patrick Ianni in second-half stoppage time with the score still at 1-0 – and has shutouts in his last three league starts.
Both teams travel next week for the last time in the regular season – the last away game of the year for the Fire. Sporting are at Philadelphia on Oct. 18, with Chicago at D.C. United.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Andy Gruenebaum||He could have at least three Save of the Week nominees, two of which kept SKC in the match until Zusi's goal.|
|2||Graham Zusi||Scored a fantastic goal and then set up Dwyer's finish to seal the match.|
|3||Dom Dwyer||Didn't allow a missed PK to affect his game, and nicely headed his 21st of the season.|