CHICAGO, Ill. – The Chicago Fire (4-2-3; 15pts.) trailed 1-0 at halftime but used second half strikes from Sebastian Grazzini and Dominic Oduro to earn a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Eastern conference table toppers Sporting Kansas City (7-3-0; 21pts.) Saturday night at Toyota Park. The Fire rounded out a tough three games in nine days with seven points, four against the respective leaders of both conferences.
In what was a mostly rainy affair, the two teams took a while to settle in before the first chance came for the visitors in the 20th minute when a long ball hit over the top by Sporting defender Matt Besler was headed back towards goal by Fire defender Arne Friedrich. The ball slid into the path of Kei Kamara who entered the box and ripped a shot that Sean Johnson tipped over the bar.
Sporting provided high pressure in midfield seven minutes later forcing Friedrich to awkwardly knock a ball back to Johnson from the center circle. The German international remained down, suffering a right hamstring strain and was substituted for Dan Gargan in the 29th minute.
The visitors almost immediately responded when C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara combined on the right to send Roger Espinoza up the flank. The Sporting midfielder center a pinpoint cross for a trolling Bobby Convey in the box who one-timed his effort past Johnson and inside the back post, giving Sporting a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute.
The Kansas City-based club nearly made it 2-0 going into the break when Kamara traversed up the right flank before cutting a ball back to the top of the box for Espinoza. The midfielder sent his first-time half volley to the top right corner where Johnson got a hand to it before it came off the cross bar in the 43rd minute.
Recharged from the halftime interval, the Fire found their first chance of the game in the 51st minute when Gargan chipped in a cross from the right looking for Dominic Oduro before Sporting ‘keeper Jimmy Nielsen came over the top of the Ghanaian to punch the ball away.
The Fire would continue to press and would finally find the equalizer 10 minutes later. Left back Gonzalo Segares lofted a ball up the left side for Oduro. The speedy forward beat Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin into the box before the Frenchman came in with a tackle from behind forcing referee Jose Carlos Rivero to immediately point to the penalty spot.
Fire midfielder Sebastian Grazzini would step up and calmly place his attempt past Nielsen and inside the top right corner to level things at 1-1 in the 61st minute.
The hosts would go up a man one minute later a loose ball in midfield saw Sporting’s Espinoza come to clear for a throw-in. Jumping to send the ball out of bounds, the midfielder followed through with his elbow to Grazzini’s face, resulting in him being shown a 62nd minute red card by Rivero. The ejection was Sporting’s third consecutive in matches against the Fire dating back to March 26, 2011.
The Fire came close to finding the go-ahead goal when Marco Pappa collected the ball on the right and dribbled into the middle. With space and time, the Guatemalan international rifled a blistering effort which saw Nielsen punch the ball to the left before it was cleared in the 77th minute.
A showing of tenacious work from the Ghanaian tandem of Nyarko and Oduro would see the hosts find the game winner. A wishful cross on the right from Gargan bounced through the box before Kamara met the ball at the other end. The Sporting forward juggled twice in the area before Nyarko snatched the ball out from under him, then centered for his country man who tumbled home the go-ahead effort from inside the six-yard box in the 81st minute.
The Men in Red return to action when they visit the Portland Timbers at JELD-Wen Field on Sunday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m. CT (Galavision; ESPN Deportes 97.5 FM). The Fire return to Toyota Park to face Brimstone Cup rivals FC Dallas on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. CT (NBC 5.2; ESPN Deportes 97.5 FM) Chicago Fire Season Tickets are available by calling 1-888-MLS-FIRE (657-3473), via Ticketmaster or by heading to the club’s official website at Chicago-Fire.com.
- The victory takes the Fire’s all-time MLS record vs. Sporting KC to 22-10-9 and extends their home record to 16-2-3 since the two teams first met in 1998.
- The win marks the team’s second come-from-behind victory in three matches. The Fire used goals from Austin Berry and Marco Pappa to win 2-1 at Chivas USA last Friday, May 4.
- Fire defender Arne Friedrich left the match in the 29th minute with a right hamstring injury. The German international will be evaluated by the Fire training staff in the coming days.
- With his 81st minute game-winning goal, Dominic Oduro registered his team-leading fourth of the season and 16th regular season goal since joining the Fire via trade from Houston last March. The effort moves the striker into the club’s all-time Top 15 goal scoring list where he’s tied with Lubos Kubik and Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
- Patrick Nyarko’s assist on the game winner was his second of the season. With the helper, the Ghanaian attacker moves into eighth on the club’s all-time MLS assist list with 23.
- Sebastian Grazzini’s 61st minute penalty kick was his first of the season. The Argentine has tallied six goals and seven assists over 20 matches since joining the Fire in July 2011.
- Fire captain Logan Pause made his 277th competitive appearance, moving him past goalkeeper Zach Thornton into second all-time on the club’s all competitions appearance list.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson earned his third win in his sixth appearance of the season. Johnson has a 3-1-2 record since returning to the Fire from the U.S. U-23 side earlier this spring.
Chicago Fire 2 – 1 Sporting Kansas City
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich (Dan Gargan 29’), Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Logan Pause © (Rafael Robayo 71’), Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa; Sebastian Grazzini (Federico Puppoo 80’); Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro
Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Hunter Jumper, Daniel Paladini, Orr Barouch
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen ©; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler (Lawrence Olum 88’), Michael Harrington; Julio Cesar, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, Bobby Convey (Jacob Peterson 78’); C.J. Sapong (Teal Bunbury 74’), Kei Kamara
Substitutes not used: Jon Kempin, Korede Aiyegbusi, Paulo Nagamura, Dom Dwyer
SKC – Bobby Convey (Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara) 31’
CHI – Sebastian Grazzini (penalty kick) 61’
CHI – Dominic Oduro (Patrick Nyarko) 81’
SKC – Julio Cesar (caution) 4’
CHI – Pavel Pardo (caution) 38’
CHI – Gonzalo Segares (caution) 40’
SKC – Chance Myers (caution) 57’
SKC – Roger Espinoza (ejection) 62’
CHI – Federico Puppo (caution) 79’
SKC – Kei Kamara (caution) 93+’
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Assistants: Ian Anderson, Chris Strickland
Fourth Official: Terry Vaughn