KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Time and again in the waning minutes of Friday evening's contest, Sporting Kansas City surged frantically forward and launched a desperate shot toward Chicago’s goal.
Surely, they thought, something had to go in.
But nothing ever did. Whether the ball got turned aside by young goalkeeper Sean Johnson or slipped just outside the post, Sporting saw one late opportunity after another miss the mark in Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Fire.
“I thought for sure we were going to be able to get one – if not one, two,” said forward Teal Bunbury, who pushed a shot just left in second-half stoppage time. “I thought we were going to be able to pull it off.”
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 0, CHI 1
Instead, Sporting (9-5-2) took its second straight shutout loss and stayed in third place in the East – while the Fire climbed to just two points behind them with the win.
What made the loss even harder to take for Sporting was that so many of those late shots were on or close to the mark.
Kei Kamara had two shots saved by Johnson and another blocked in the goalmouth by Dan Gargan after the 75th minute, and second-half sub Soony Saad had his blast knocked away by Johnson in the third minute of stoppage time.
“If we’d had another 30 seconds in the game, we would have had one,” Saad told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s going to happen sometimes. We got unlucky, and they held strong. It was a fortress back there.”
And Johnson, who finished with five saves, was the keeper of the keys.
“He definitely kept his team in the game, and he was rightfully the man of the match,” Saad said. “I had a shot that I thought was definitely going in. I couldn’t have hit it any cleaner. But he made a really good save.”
At the other end of the pitch, Sporting ’keeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen could only watch in frustrated admiration.
“The last five minutes, we created so many chances,” Nielsen said. “It was just bad luck and unbelievable goalkeeping. I knew before the game that he was an awesome keeper, and he pulled out some unbelievable saves. He had two or three where the whole stadium thought it was a goal.”
But none of them were, leaving Sporting with not even a point to show for their 27 shots –and no league goals since the 8th minute of a one-all draw at Seattle on June 20.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.