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11/23 5:00pm
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11/30 9:00pm
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Eastern Conference Championship

Preview: SKC seek memorable home opener vs. Chicago

The league’s newest soccer cathedral opens when LIVESTRONG Sporting Park makes its bow, as Sporting Kansas City meet the Chicago Fire. Sporting finally play at home after a record 10-game road trip to start the campaign, coming off a scoreless draw at Toronto FC. The Fire are in the throes of a club-record 10-game winless run, also coming off a scoreless draw, at home with Seattle Sounders FC.

REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; JAR (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: Mark Declouet. MLS Career: 132 games; FC/gm: 29.2; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 23; pens: 46

INJURY REPORT:

  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: FW Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: GK Jimmy Nielsen (illness); DF Seth Sinovic (R hamstring strain); DF Kevin Ellis (R knee strain)
  • CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: MF Mike Banner (L Achilles tendinitis); DF Steven Kinney (R Achilles repair); MF Marko Maric (L deltoid ligament sprain); DOUBTFUL: DF Josip Mikulic (L clavicle fracture)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES:

  • KC: Craig Rocastle (Grenada), Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe), Shavar Thomas (Jamaica)
  • CHI: Marco Pappa (Guatemala)

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Michael Harrington … CHI: Diego Chaves, Daniel Paladini
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Omar Bravo … CHI: Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Gonzalo Segares

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (39 meetings): Sporting 10 wins (0 shootout), 49 goals … Fire 21 wins (1 shootout), 77 goals … Ties 8
  • AT KANSAS CITY (20 meetings): Sporting 7 wins (0 shootout), 31 goals … Fire 7 wins (1 shootout), 36 goals … Ties 6
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, after the Fire claimed a 3-2 victory at Toyota Park on March 26.
  • It was just the second win in the last eight meetings between the clubs for the Fire, over the past four seasons.
  • But four of those encounters have been draws.
  • After going the first 10 seasons with just one win in Chicago, Kansas City has won on two of their last four trips to face the Fire (2008 and 2010), with a draw in a third visit.
  • Kansas City never defeated Chicago at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, with three draws and a loss in four all time meetings.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. CHI: P4 W1 L2 D1 … Frank Klopas v KC: first game
  • LAST MEETING: 3/26: CHI 3, KC 2 (Chaves 34; Puerari 40; Pappa 60 – Besler 51; Bunbury 72)
  • Chicago went up a goal and up a man in the 34th minute, when Kansas City Designated Player Omar Bravo was sent off after pulling down Gaston Puerari as he raced into the area on a solo run. Fire forward Diego Chaves promptly buried the resulting penalty kick.
  • The Fire doubled their advantage in the 40th. Chicago midfielder Mike Videira played Puerari into the left side of the box, and the Uruguayan forward took one touch towards the middle before curling a 15-yard shot past KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
  • Kansas City defender Matt Besler put Sporting on the board just after the break. Fire 'keeper Sean Johnson fumbled a low cross from midfielder Davy Arnaud and Besler jumped on the ball at the back post, tapping in from a few yards out.
  • But Pappa restored the 2-goal margin with an absolutely fantastic goal in the 59th minute. The Guatemalan midfielder collected the ball in the middle of Kansas City’s half and improbably wove through four Sporting defenders before firing a low right-footed toe-poke inside the left post from the top of the box.
  • Kansas City pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute. Halftime substitute Teal Bunbury collected an errant pass from Fire left back Gonzalo Segares in the middle of Chicago’s half and coolly slotted a shot inside the left post.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-4-2): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares – Patrick Nyarko (Dasan Robinson 89), Michael Videira, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa - Diego Chaves (Dominic Oduro 89), Gaston Puerari (Orr Barouch 74).
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Scott Lorenz (Birahim Diop 84), Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Chance Myers - Stephane Auvray (Graham Zusi 69) - Davy Arnaud, Craig Rocastle (Teal Bunbury 46)- Milos Stojcev, C.J. Sapong, Omar Bravo (sent off 30)

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City put an end to their 10-game road swing to start the season, playing to a scoreless draw Saturday with Toronto FC at BMO Field. Sporting have 6 points from 10 matches on the season, sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Eric Kronberg made three saves in goal for Sporting Kansas City, including a stop in added time on a header from late-game substitute Doneil Henry.
  • Stefan Frei made two saves in the TFC goal, his best a save on a Teal Bunbury shot from outside the area midway through the second half.
  • SKC boss Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that came back for a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Eric Kronberg deputized in goal for Jimmy Nielsen, and Ryan Smith came into the lineup for Seth Sinovic.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-1-3): Eric Kronberg - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Michael Harrington - Davy Arnaud, Craig Rocastle (Luke Sassano 60) - Graham Zusi (Birahim Diop 85) - Ryan Smith, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 88), Omar Bravo.

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting come into their home debut having put together back-to-back results for the first time this season, the draw in Toronto following a 1-1 tie in Colorado.
  • “We took a bit of a dip losing a couple games in a row,” goalkeeper Eric Kronberg said. “I think we're finally on our way out of the hole and heading in the right direction. I don't think we're too happy with it, but I think we're happy with where we are going.”
  • The Wizards concluded their 10-game road trip to start the season – the longest in MLS history – with one win and three draws. The last team to open with an extended road swing – the Chicago Fire in 2006 – started with two wins and four draws in nine games. They finished the season in third place in the Eastern Conference.
  • Sporting are the fourth club in MLS history to start the year with multiple games on the road while awaiting a new home: Columbus (1999; 5-2 in 7 games), LA Galaxy (2003; 0-4-4 in 8 games) and Chicago.
  • “We could be a lot better obviously, we could have won all 10 games that would be the best thing but that is unrealistic, especially in a league where we have teams that only have two or less wins right now on the road,” manager Peter Vermes said. “The only difference is that they have played a lot of games at home as well. For us right now with a chance to come back home is going to be a good step in the right direction.”
  • Kronberg made his second start of the season in goal (his third career appearance since being selected in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft) and backstopped the club’s first shutout of the year. Sporting were the last team in MLS this season to keep a clean sheet.
  • “The clean sheet for us is a good thing. I thought the guys were pretty organized and balanced throughout the entire 90 minutes,” Vermes said. “Other than the one chance at the end, the header where they pumped the ball into the box, other than that, there really wasn’t much play.”
  • Kronberg was deputizing for Jimmy Nielsen, who remained in Kansas City, hospitalized with an infection. Vermes said he expected the Danish veteran to be available for the home opener.
  • “We have a lot of confidence in Eric and he has really grown in the last year,” Vermes said. “We had no concerns with him going into the game … We’re very fortunate to have two top-level goalkeepers.”
  • In nine previous opening games in stadiums specifically built for soccer since the start of the league, the home team has won five, with three draws. The only road team to win? Kansas City, in the 2007 opening of Toronto’s BMO Field.
  • “We lacked that final pass or shot, but still created some opportunities,” Vermes said. “But it’s not for us to drive the game away from home. We did a good job keeping the game compact.”

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire saw their winless streak hit 10 games, despite playing for another draw in a goalless result with Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at Toyota Park. The Fire have 10 points from 12 matches on the year, sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The goalkeepers, Sean Johnson for Chicago and Kasey Keller for Seattle, were the heroes on the night. Keller made five saves on the night, most in the opening 45 minutes, including a couple of long-range efforts by Daniel Paladini.
  • Johnson made three saves for the game, two coming in a quick sequence early on, denying Sounders FC striker Lamar Neagle on both occasions.
  • Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that came back for a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Park. Corben Bone came into the midfield for Marco Pappa, away on Gold Cup duty.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Bratislav Ristic, Cory Gibbs, Yamith Cuesta, Gonzalo Segares Logan Pause, Daniel Paladini - Dominic Oduro, Diego Chaves (Patrick Nyarko 54), Corben Bone (Gaston Puerari 67) - Cristian Nazarit (Orr Barouch 78).

TEAM NEWS

  • The game was the coaching debut for Frank Klopas, who assumed the responsibilities on an interim basis after Carlos de los Cobos was relieved of his duties, just a little more than a year after taking the reins.
  • "We pushed the game and had opportunities. … That’s been the story for us right now. We always create opportunities, but we’ve got to finish some of those," said Klopas. "On the other hand, some of the things we worked on (such as) giving opportunities for goals didn't happen tonight and that's a positive."
  • While the Fire have not won since the second week of the season, they had still taken points in six of their last seven games after the scoreless draw with Houston. The only loss since April 23 came to Philadelphia, a 2-1 defeat on May 21.
  • “We know it hasn’t been good enough,” Fire captain Logan Pause said. “We know we have a long way to go. We also know a couple wins and we’re right back in it. We were hoping (vs. Seattle) we’d get the first one and start to get the ball rolling, but I think it was a good start. ... It’s exciting with a young group; everyone’s energetic and optimistic and hopefully we’ll turn things around.”
  • Goalkeeper Sean Johnson recorded his first shutout of the season in his second consecutive start after returning to the Fire lineup. Johnson had started the first four games of the season for Chicago before giving way to Jon Conway.
  • "I think our focus was on the defensive end to get a shutout," Johnson said. "The guys were committed early on. It's important – when the other team has chances – to communicate and to shut that down, make sure everybody's on the same page."
  • After the bright start in the first half, the Fire let their foot off the gas a bit after the break, despite the addition of three attacking options off the bench. The Fire had scored five goals over their previous three games.
  • "I thought we set the tone and we created the better chances than they did," said midfielder Patrick Nyarko, a second-half substitute. "We gave up nothing in the back. Everyone was scrambling. Everyone was covering for each other. I personally think it was our best game this season."
  • Even after the coaching change, Klopas made very few alterations to the lineup, the only change enforced with Marco Pappa away with the Guatemala national team in advance of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
  • For a second consecutive match, Pause was in the lineup (after missing four starts), teaming with Paladini in a dual deep-lying midfield axis.
  • “Danny had a very good game,” Klopas said. “He has the ability out of the back not only to attack from behind, but also make those diagonal balls.” Said Paladini: “It’s basically [Logan Pause’s] job and mine to stop their offensive threats, and when we can to get into the attacking third. Tonight I found myself in some good spots and I took my chances.”