(July 6, 2019) — Sporting Kansas City (5-7-7, 22 points) secured a vital 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire (5-8-7, 22 points) on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park, using an early Yohan Croizet strike to jump from 12th to ninth place in the provisional Western Conference standings.
With the comprehensive triumph, Sporting has now won four straight home games over the Fire and extended Chicago’s road winless drought to 22 MLS matches dating back to May 2018. Between the posts, Tim Melia also recorded his 57th regular season win to tie club legend Jimmy Nielsen for the most goalkeeping victories in Sporting history.
Saturday’s performance-which culminated in Sporting’s 200th all-time regular season home win-will give Manager Peter Vermes’ side momentum heading into an important trip to Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-7-8, 20 points) next Saturday at BC Place, slated for 9 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
Three days removed from a humbling home defeat to Los Angeles Football Club, Vermes reshuffled his starting lineup to the tune of four changes. Botond Barath and MLS All-Star selection Graham Zusi slotted into the right side of defense, replacing Andreu Fontas and Nicolas Hasler, respectively, while midfielder Gedion Zelalem replaced Benny Feilhaber and Croizet stepped in for striker Krisztian Nemeth.
Croizet made an impact from off the bench Wednesday, scoring as a second-half substitute, and struck again Saturday with 14 minutes on the clock. Felipe Gutierrez won possession in Sporting’s defensive third and threaded an inch-perfect, 40-yard through ball into the path of Croizet, who slotted low past onrushing goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm for his third goal of the 2019 MLS campaign.
The hosts enjoyed the lion’s share of possession throughout the night and nearly doubled their lead after 24 minutes. Gerso Fernandes floated into a pocket of space on the right channel, advanced into the box and evaded multiple defenders before curling a shot inches wide of the far post. Chicago struggled to gain any sort of foothold in the early stages and registered their lone first-half shot attempt in the 32nd minute, when Nicolas Gaitan settled a pass from Aleksandar Katai and fired marginally off target and into the side netting.
Unsatisfied with their one-goal cushion, Sporting created a flurry of chances during the first 15 minutes of the second period. Salloi went close on two occasions, volleying wayward off a clever Graham Zusi feed and forcing a block from retreating defender Francisco Calvo. Gerso also kept the Fire on their heels, prompting the increasingly busy Kronholm into a reflex save in the 55th minute.
Sporting kept their foot on the proverbial pedal and spurned a golden opportunity to extend their advantage in the 57th minute. Gerso streaked down the left wing and delivered a low cross intended for Croizet that was cut out by Grant Lillard. The ball redirected kindly into the path of a trailing Gutierrez, whose sizzling effort glanced off the outside of the post and behind for a goal kick.
Chicago rarely threatened Sporting’s goal but managed to do so in the 68th minute, Dax McCarty latching onto Gaitan’s floated free kick and sending a tame header straight at Melia.
The Fire pushed numbers forward in second-half stoppage time and were exposed twice in quick succession. Gerso diced through the defense and rattled the woodwork with a low drive before Kronholm produced an outstanding save to thwart substitute Nemeth in one of the game’s final plays.