Monday, May 14, 2012

Sporting KC drops third straight game


Sporting Kansas City fell 2-1 to the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park with more than 500 Sporting KC fans in attendance to support the team on the road.

The home side received a penalty kick, converted by Sebastian Grazzini, and man advantage in back-to-back minutes from referee Jose Carlos Rivero on his MLS debut to rally past first place Sporting KC.

Forward Bobby Convey scored his first goal of the season to put Sporting KC in front at the half, but Grazzini’s penalty kick in the 61st minute and Roger Espinoza’s ejection a minute later set the stage for Dominic Oduro’s match winner with under 10 minutes to play.

Sporting KC remains in first place in the Eastern Conference, despite dropping their third straight match after opening the season with seven straight wins.

Chicago threatened early through Jalil Anibaba, who replaced Dan Gargan in the Firestarting lineup, but he scuffed his shot wide from the right side of the penalty area after receiving a pass from Pavel Pardo in the 6th minute.

Sporting Kansas City then recorded the first shot on goal of the game in the 20th minute following a free kick from Matt Besler on the team’s own side of midfield. The header from German centerback Arne Friedich, who would go off nine minutes later with a right hamstring strain, put the ball into the path of Kei Kamara and his half-volley was tipped away on an acrobatic save from Sean Johnson.

Ten minutes later, Sporting Kansas City opened the scoring on a beautiful series down the right side of the field. C.J. Sapong began the play by laying the ball back for Kamara along the touchline, while Roger Espinoza began his sprint toward the corner flag. Kamara’s well-weighted pass found Espinoza with space to run into the area and the midfielder’s left-footed cross was met by Convey near the penalty spot for a first-time finish inside the far post.

The goal, Convey’s first of the year since arriving from San Jose during the offseason, also marked Espinoza’s first assist of the season.

The Honduran National Team member nearly put himself on the scoresheet again in the 43rdminute, lining up a half-volley from 20 yards out after Sapong picked him out at the top of the area. Johnson dove high to his left to push Espinoza’s effort into the crossbar and over the endline.

The momentum in the match swung dramatically 15 minutes into the second half as AurelienCollin was whistled for a foul in the penalty area for the second time in asmany matches. Oduro was racing toward goal from the left side and went down as Collin’s sliding tackle came in from the side.

Grazzini converted the penalty kick, placing his shot into the upper right side of the net for the Argentine’s first goal of the year to level the score at 1-1.

Less than a minute after the ensuing kick off, Sporting Kansas City was reduced to 10 men when Espinoza was shown a straight red card after winning the ball off a challenge with Grazzini in the midfield. Espinoza’s ejection marks the third straight match against the Fire that Sporting KC has finished shorthanded and was Sporting KC’s 10th in the all-time series, most against any opponent.

Chicago capitalized on the man advantage with sustained pressure on Jimmy Nielsen’s net for the final 30 minutes, including an Oduro header narrowly wide at the 70-minute mark.

Having recorded just one shot on goal prior to the red card, the Fire would pick up the pace beginning with Marco Pappa’s long-range effort in the 77th minute that Nielsen punched away.

Four minutes later, the Fire pulled ahead on a scramble inside the goalmouth. Kamara’s clearance at the backpost was thwarted by Patrick Nyarko, who sent the ball across to his Ghanaian strike partner Oduro to direct over the goalline with a sliding shot from close range.

Nielsen would keep Sporting KC close with a superb stop on second-half substitute Frederico Puppo in the 83rd minute for his fourth save of the match, but the Sporting KC attack registered just one shot in the second half after Convey’s goal had broken a 237-minute scoreless streak.

Sporting Kansas City and Chicago will meet again on Sunday morning in the MLS Reserve League as the two teams face off at 10 a.m. CT at the Toyota Park Practice Field. Follow @SKCGameday on Twitter for live updates throughout the contest.