KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A single home point on a sticky July afternoon isn't what Sporting Kansas City would have wanted, in terms of table position or of match scheduling, but they'll take it.
“As you saw last year and probably this year again, it's going to be where every single point's going to matter big-time,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber told reporters after Sunday's 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire, which extended Sporting's unbeaten string to three matches but also denied them a chance to keep a share of the Eastern Conference lead. “We didn't win the Supporters Shield by a point or something, and we had homefield advantage in the [MLS Cup] finals by a point. Maybe this is the point that does it. So we'll keep going. It's important not to lose.”
Still, winger Graham Zusi said, it's not what Kansas City expect at home.
“I think for us, especially, we feel like we should get three points at home every time,” said Zusi, who came on as a second-half substitute in his return from World Cup duty with the US national team. “Today was no different. According to our standards, three points is the way to go. But a point's a point as well. It's better than losing.”
“Look, we obviously gave a goal away,” manager Peter Vermes said during his postmatch news conference. “They had one other chance besides that. We lost a ball, a very easy ball right at the beginning of the final third. We lose the ball and we’re a little stretched out and they get an easy tap-in at the end of the day. So we give that up, then obviously we drove the game, in and around their box quite a bit.”
Sporting had 78.6 percent of the possession in the second half, outshooting the Fire 11-2 over that span, but couldn't find a match-winner.
“I like to think that in the second half we made some really, really good opportunities at goal. We had some really good chances,” Vermes said. “We should have scored a second goal, no doubt in my mind. We just didn’t have enough people in the box.”
Temperatures rose to near 90 during the match, with a heat index in the high 90s – and it showed late in the match, as players visibly flagged.
“It was stupidly hot,” Dwyer said. “Whoever decided to have a 2 p.m. game – I understand it's TV time and all that, but it was very tough conditions. I think you saw that in the last 10-15. Guys were struggling, and I was cramping up. It wasn't fun, but that's part of football.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.