Sporting Kansas City fell to the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Friday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. Despite the loss, Sporting KC (11-9-6, 39 points) remains tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls.
Sporting KC and U.S. Men's National Team winger Graham Zusi started his first match since injuring his right quad in the MLS All-Star Game on July 31. Teal Bunbury also recorded his first start for Sporting KC since August 26, 2012, when he tore his ACL against the New York Red Bulls.
Nielsen made four saves on the night including a kick save on Jeff Larentowicz in the 54th minute and a finger-tip save off the crossbar from a Juan Luis Anangonó strike in the 73rd minute.
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes made three second-half substitutions as his squad continued to push for the equalizer. The elusive goal nearly came in the 75th minute when Soony Saad's long cross found the head of C.J. Sapong. The third-year striker, making his first start since June 22, soared over his defender to win the header, but Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson scooped up the bouncing attempt.
In the 83rd minute, second-half sub Dom Dwyer sent a looping header to the back post that clipped the crossbar. Minutes later, Dwyer found Zusi on the right side of the penalty box, but his side-volley missed the target.
Sporting KC's best opportunity to equalize came in the 86th minute when Haitian international Peterson Joseph found a surging Seth Sinovic deep in Fire territory. The Sporting KC defender took one touch but Johnson stayed big to block his near-post attempt.
Sporting KC will continue their three-game road trip across nine days when they travel to Honduras next week for their CONCACAF Champions League match against CD Olimpia on Tuesday. The squad will then return home to host the Colorado Rapids next Saturday at Sporting Park.