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Sporting Kansas City, Chicago settle for scoreless tie

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Sporting Kansas City (1-1-1) and the Chicago Fire (0-2-1) tied 0-0 on Saturday afternoon at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

It was Sporting Kansas City's first home game of the season, and despite gray skies and cold weather, the blue-clad faithful Sporting KC fans came out in full force, selling out Sporting Park.

Despite a second half in which Sporting Kansas City tripled its attempts on goal with scoring opportunities from almost its entire offensive end, the Fire's defense were able to hang on and finish with the tie.

"We felt the excitement of the fans in the home opener, and we're disappointed that we couldn't get a goal for them," Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler said, "but our goal coming in was to drive the game and to play at a quick tempo, and we did that. We passed it quick. We opened up spaces. We just couldn't stick one in the back of the net."

The first half opened with the Fire taking the kickoff, but the opening five minutes were dominated by Sporting Kansas City.

Although unable to connect with the net, early goal opportunities by forward Claudio Bieler and a strong offensive presence from forward C.J. Sapong led Sporting KC to 71 percent possession in the first half.

Chicago committed three fouls in the opening five minutes allowing Kansas City back-to-back set play opportunities barely outside of the Fire's 18-yard box.

All of the Fire's first half scoring opportunities came off counter attacks, turning around Sporting KC's offensive attacks and putting its defense in a rush to get back. Though Chicago had only 28 percent possession the first half, its four shots, coming from midfielder Chris Rolfe (with 2), Jeff Larentowicz and Dan Paladini, were only one shot behind Sporting KC.

"I just felt our guys came out and left everything on the field," Chicago head coach Frank Klopas said, "We had some very good chances throughout the game, in the first half and later in the second."

Shutting down the Fire in the midfield and anchoring his team offensively was Sporting midfielder Oriel Rosell. The 20-year-old proved an offensive threat as well as a defensive presence. He set up offensive plays and warded off the Fire's offense throughout the course of the game.

Chicago midfielder Dilly Dukatook control of his team's defense, and despite controversy over a no-call handball in the 33rd minute, anchored the Fire's defense in the first half.

Much like the first half opened, Sporting KC dominated on its offensive attack in the closing minutes before halftime. The Fire's foul count continued to grow, giving Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi the opportunity to take back-to-back free kicks.

Sporting KC finished the first half with seven fouls, while the Fire committed 12, including one yellow card on Paladini in the 41st minute.

The second half opened similar to the first. Sporting Kansas City maintained possession on offense and took six shots, creating numerous scoring opportunities in the second half's early minutes.

Sporting KC's shot count tripled in the remainder of the half, but it was unable to take advantage of scoring opportunities and secure a goal.

Coming close to scoring for Sporting KC were forwards Sapong and Bieler and midfielders Zusi, Billy Feilhaber and Rosell.

The final five minutes before the whistle blew consisted of a few close calls from Zusi. In the 85th minute, Zusi dribbled the ball into Chicago's 18-yard box and ripped a shot toward goal. The ball sailed over the crossbar, leaving already on-edge Sporting fans shaking their heads.

The Fire brought almost its entire squad onto defense in the final minutes as an effort to keep Sporting KC from getting a goal.

"When you have 74 percent position throughout the course of the game, there's just nothing you can do when a team drops nine guys into a 24-yard space, it's always difficult to hit the back of the net," Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. "But I thought at times we were very dangerous around the goal, we really didn't give anything away until probably the 88th minute."

Five minutes of stoppage time were added to the game.

A breakaway possession from Paladini in the 92nd minute was the Fire's final attempt on goal, but a sliding save from Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen inside the 18-yard box kept Chicago from gaining an advantage.

"I'm very happy with out performance," Vermes said. "I'm disappointed that we couldn't get the three points (from a win) because we played so well, just a little disappointed with that side of it, but also, we didn't give up anything defensively and we got a shutout."

Chicago's Chris Rolfe was given a yellow in minute 93 followed by a foul from Sporting KC's Rosell gaining his yellow in the 94th minute. With 30 seconds left in the game, Zusi had the final attempt on goal for Sporting KC, but was unable to connect, as Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson dived for the save.

Sporting Kansas City led with 73 percent possession the second half.

"We had the opportunity to get the three (points), but I mean, so did they," Klopas said. "So to walk away to get one -- I think there's a lot to build on with our team and I'm proud of our guys because they left everything on the field."
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