BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Sporting Kansas City out-passed and out-possessed the Chicago Fire on Friday, but Hunter Jumper's first career goal in the 13th minute, a diving header into an open net, was all Chicago needed in a 1-0 win.
After Jumper's goal, the Fire held tight for their first shutout in their last 15 competitive matches.
Sporting held the ball for 59 percent of the game and completed 80 percent of their passes to the Fire's 65, but the Eastern Conference frontrunners weren't able to put the ball in the back of the net in their fourth loss in five games.
In the 13th minute, Mike Magee tipped a Jalil Anibaba cross across the goal to Jumper – making his first start at center back – who scored in an open net by diving for a header with the ball just a few inches above the ground.
The win lifted the Fire (10-10-4) into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind the Houston Dynamo, who occupy the fifth and final playoff spot and hold a game in hand. Sporting (11-9-6) remain in first place, five points ahead of the Fire, but could be overtaken by any of the three teams below them depending on results later in the weekend.
The goal was the first big chance of the game, but Chicago continued to threaten after the taking the lead and it wasn't until late in the first half when Sporting finally were able to challenge Sean Johnson's goal.
A Matt Besler throw-in during the 34th minute bounced in the box and found its way to Graham Zusi at the far post, but the US national team midfielder wasn't able to put his shot on frame.
The Fire had multiple chances to give themselves insurance in the second half, but they weren't able to find their mark.
Their best look came in the 65th minute when Rolfe got around Aurélien Collin to corral a bouncing ball at midfield and break clean through on goal, but he put his shot wide with just Sporting 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen to beat.
Eight minutes later, new Fire Designated Player Juan Luis Anangonó almost opened his Fire account in spectacular fashion, but his volley on the turn was tipped onto the crossbar by Nielsen.
Chicago's wastefulness in the second half made things especially nervy as Sporting pressed for the equalizer.
The best look for the visitors came when Seth Sinovic's 83rd minute cross found the head of Soony Saad, but his looping header hit the top of the crossbar and bounced out for a goal kick.
Sinovic had a chance of his own three minutes later when he drove into the penalty area and unleashed a fierce drive, only to see Johnson turn it away at the near post to secure three points for the Fire.
Sporting will now have to turn around and travel to Central America, where they will face Olimpia of Honduras in their second CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday before returning to MLS next Saturday at home against the Colorado Rapids. Chicago are back in nine days' time, when they host the Houston Dynamo on Sept. 1.