Monday, July 7, 2014

Sporting Kansas City, Chicago Fire draw

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City reached the half-way point of the 2014 MLS season on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire at Sporting Park.

In front of the team's largest crowd of the season and 45th straight MLS sellout, forward Dom Dwyer scored his 12th goal of the season before Mike Magee equalized for Chicago seven minutes later to split the points.

With the draw, Sporting Kansas City sits two points back of D.C. United for first place in the Eastern Conference after 17 of 34 regular season matches. Prior to Sunday's nationally televised match on ESPN, Sporting Kansas City welcomed back Matt Besler and Graham Zusi following their participation in the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the U.S. Men's National Team.

The visiting Fire nearly took an early lead when Magee intercepted a pass from Kevin Ellis inside Chicago's attacking third less than 90 seconds into the match. Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg came off his line and stood his ground while Aurelien Collin recovered to clear the shot inside the six-yard box.

Chicago saw another shot cleared in front of the goalline in the 5th minute as Patrick Ianni's header off a Harrison Shipp corner kick was turned away alertly by Dwyer.

Sporting Kansas City's first serious foray forward came in the 12th minute as Benny Feilhaber shrugged off a challenge from Logan Pause and picked out Soony Saad in the central channel. Saad struck his shot first time from 22 yards out, forcing Sean Johnson into a low save to his left.

Ten minutes later, Saad collected a poor clearance from Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and fed Dwyer to set up an acrobatic scissors attempt that was saved by Johnson at the near post. Dwyer led all players on Sunday with five shots and three shots on goal.

Magee, a 21 goal scorer in 2013, threatened again in the 31st minute on Sunday. Receiving a ball behind the Sporting KC backline from Homegrown Player Chris Ritter, Magee struck a left-footed shot that deflected off the far post and back into play.

Dwyer then struck for the game's opening goal on the opposite end of the field, dispossessing Ianni and calmly slotting his shot past Johnson for his 12th goal of the season before capturing a celebratory selfie along with Soony Saad and South Stand supporters. The third-year pro moves into a tie with Erick Torres for the second most goals scored in MLS this season and now ranks third on the club's all-time single-season goals scored chart.

All Sporting Kansas City fans can capitalize on the first-half goal through BurgerFi's text to win promotion. Text 'Sporting 1' to 72727 and receive one burger of equal or lesser value with any burger purchased at their Leawood location in the 48 hours following Sunday's match.

The lead would be short-lived as Chicago pulled level in the 40th minute through Magee. Fire midfielder Alex forced a turnover to earn the assist and Magee buried his shot from the top of the penalty area for his fifth of the season.

The second half was controlled by Sporting Kansas City, to the tune of an 11-2 edge in shots and 79-21 percent advantage in possession, though neither side could find the coveted game-winning goal. The Fire's only two shots of the half came in the 57th minute with Dilly Duka's shot stopped on the goalline by Collin and Shipp sending his shot just wide of the post from 20 yards out.

Graham Zusi, in his first match back from representing the United States at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, entered the match in the 62nd minute and immediately made an impact with a corner kick headed on frame by Dwyer and saved by Johnson.

Just over 10 minutes later, Zusi switched fields and found Igor Juliao along the right flank. The Brazilian right back played a pass into the path of Jacob Peterson, who fired a first-time shot toward the near post that was pushed over the endline by Johnson.

The Chicago goalkeeper made a season-high eight saves on Sunday, including two in short succession in the first minute of second-half stoppage time to preserve the draw. Johnson dove full extension to his right to deny Peterson's effort from outside the area and then did just enough to thwart C.J. Sapong from burying the rebound.

Sporting KC will now enter a stretch with three of their next four MLS matches away from home, beginning Saturday at the Montreal Impact. Johnny's Tavern locations in the KC Power & Light District (1310 Grand Blvd.) and Shawnee (13410 W. 62nd Terr.) will host the team's official watch parties, featuring select Boulevard draft specials.