Befitting their nickname, the Chicago Fire can now be considered one of the hottest teams in MLS thanks to their third straight win, a 1-0 result at Sporting Kansas City.
And while the Fire beat New York and Columbus in impressive fashion to put together their first winning streak of the season, the Fire didn’t dominate on Friday against Sporting Kansas City, and they certainly didn’t win many statistical battles. But behind a counterattack goal and highlight-reel saves from goalkeeper Sean Johnson, the Fire were able to pull out the win at Livestrong Sporting Park.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 0, CHI 1
“Our back four did a fantastic job, and Sean was huge making big plays for us,” forward Chris Rolfe told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “They’re a very good team. They’re very athletic, and playing at home in a stadium like that, they got a little burst at the end of the game.”
Outshot and out-possessed throughout, the Fire capitalized on one of their few opportunities, a counterattack combination from Rolfe and Marco Pappa, who slammed home the game winner.
Johnson and the Fire defense did the rest.
Sporting peppered the Chicago goal throughout the final minutes, but they weren’t able to best Johnson, who came up with five saves to preserve the win, capping off the win by tipping Kei Keimara’s shot with his fingertips in the waning seconds of the match.
“The last two he’s been amazing, and this is what we expect from him going forward,” Rolfe said. “Sean pushes himself really hard and he’s really critical of his play, and he’s made himself into the best player he can be.”
In his first start of the season, Rolfe came up big, setting up Pappa’s goal and almost registering his second goal of the season.
“It was pretty good,” Rolfe said. “My fitness level felt fine, especially in the heat. It’s probably going to be a long season with that ankle.”
It wasn’t a resounding win for the Fire and it wasn’t an offensive performance to remember.
But despite the fact that Sporting Kansas City had 27 shots to their 10 and held 61 percent of the possession, Chicago remained perfect after the international break.
“That break was obviously good for us,” Rolfe said. “We came back with a little bit of freshness and [were] able to re-analyze things and what we were and what we wanted.”