The Chicago Fire entered Thursday’s first-ever match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park primed to break their 10-game league winless streak. They’d played well enough to win in their last two matches, and as long as they weathered Sporting’s stadium-induced early storm and stuck to interim head coach Frank Klopas’s game plan, they believed they’d leave Kansas City with all three points.
Chicago handled Kansas City’s early pressure, but – despite going up a man after Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was red-carded in the 67th minute – couldn’t get a grip on the game, at times lacking any semblance of an attack and getting the benefit of an iffy no-call en route to a scoreless draw at Sporting’s beautiful new home.
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The Fire are now winless in their last 11 games.
The Fire’s main struggles Thursday came in the final third, with the offense lacking the movement, creativity and touch required to break down Sporting’s back four. Chicago resorted to long shots from holding midfielder Daniel Paladini to generate chances, with substitute forward Orr Barouch squandering the team’s best opportunity when his shot off a muffed rebound by Kansas City replacement goalkeeper Eric Kronberg thumped off the post from close range in the 80th minute.
“I think that our movement off the ball could’ve been better,” Klopas told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “Our decision making in the final third could’ve been better.”
Though Klopas made three attacking substitutions in the second half, his team didn’t really push 10-man Sporting after the Nielsen red card, lacking a sense of urgency in the attack as the game wound down.
“I thought when we went a man up we really didn’t try to get behind them,” Klopas said. “Everything was pushed in front of them and we made it a little too easy for their defenders and a little too predictable when we had the ball.
“I think we just always have to look to the forwards to get behind,” he added. “[We can’t] just keep it in front and make it easy, our movement has to be better.”
Klopas was pleased that Chicago kept their second straight clean sheet, but he shouldn’t be too excited about how they went about it. The back four looked relatively sloppy and indecisive at times, and dodged a bullet more than once to earn the shutout.
They also almost conceded what would’ve been a fatal penalty kick in the 85th minute, when right back Bratislav Ristic tackled Sporting forward Omar Bravo from behind in the left side of the box.
“I didn’t see it, so it’s hard for me to comment on it,” Klopas said of the challenge, which left Bravo splayed out on the field before he gingerly walked off. “If he doesn’t give it, it’s not a penalty.”
While the Fire didn’t get the three points they so desperately wanted – and while they have plenty of things to work on – they’re not letting Thursday’s match get them down. They’ll take the point from a tough environment and travel to Columbus, where they face the Crew on Sunday afternoon.
“To get a point in a place like (Kansas City) on the road is very good,” Klopas said. “We just got to keep building on that.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.