Sporting Kansas City opened Livestrong Sporting Park to rave reviews Thursday night, but the team couldn’t manage the result they were hoping for, drawing 0-0 with the Chicago Fire in a game filled with controversy.
An over-capacity crowd of 19,925 saw Sporting go down to 10 men early in the second half when goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen saw red for a handball outside the area. Then they witnessed what appeared to be a penalty on Omar Bravo that referee Michael Kennedy did not whistle late in the game.
With the draw, both teams extended their winless streaks to double digits and remain rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
The evening began with the expected pomp and circumstance for a stadium opener, including a few remarks from seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and Sporting seemed in high gear from the opening kick.
Chance Myers had the first chance of the match after five minutes, when he connected with Luke Sassano’s long throw. But Myers’ header rolled ball meekly into Sean Johnson’s waiting mitts.
From there, Kansas City grabbed control of the match, using the field’s spaciousness to feed Bravo and Kei Kamara on the flanks and forcing Chicago to work mostly on the break.
Both sides wasted promising counterattacking opportunities following opposing corner kicks before Sporting nearly took the lead through Graham Zusi in the 15th minute. Kamara turned his defender and embarked on a long run down the right sideline before sending a low cross into the area. The onrushing Bravo whiffed, but Zusi was there at the back post to drive the ball into the back of the net and send the home crowd into hysterics. It was all for naught, as the linesman correctly spotted Bravo offside on the initial ball.
It didn’t slow down from there as both sides settled into a rhythm and physical play cropped up all over the field.
Zusi continued to press forward from attacking midfield, buzzing Johnson’s top corner with a dipping drive from 25 yards out while the Fire had a glorious opportunity from a Cristian Nazarit header that forced a diving stop out of Nielsen.
Bravo then had another a prime opportunity just before the break, but he appeared caught between using his head or foot and was unable to turn Zusi’s cross into the goal.
Both sides managed very little for the first 20 minutes of the second half before a bizarre play saw Kansas City go down to 10 men. Dominic Oduro slipped in behind the Sporting defense, forcing Nielsen to come charging off his line. Oduro attempted to chip the ball over Neilsen, but the goalkeeper reached up and handled the ball outside the penalty area.
Kennedy had no choice but to showed Nielsen his walking papers, and backup Eric Kronberg entered the game.
Chicago struggled to really gain control of the match after the sending off, though, until substitute Orr Barrouch came inches from snatching a winner. In the 80th minute, Kronburg fumbled a routine save, and Barrouch pounced on the rebound. However, his shot could only rattled the woodwork.
Five minutes later, Kansas City had what they thought was a clear penalty. Zusi played Bravo in on goal and Chicago defender Bratislav Ristic slid in on for a tackle. He seemed to take out Bravo’s leg before getting a touch on the ball, but Kennedy waved the play off, leaving Bravo clutching his back on the ground.
After a long delay, the game lost its urgency down the stretch and neither team could create a decent chance, leaving them to split the points.