Sporting Kansas City-Fire Preview


The Chicago Fire are coming off their first victory of the season, and it required an offensive explosion.

More goals could be in store Sunday as the Fire host a normally steady Sporting Kansas City side that will be without all of its traditional center back options.

Kansas City (5-3-2) has lost Matt Besler to U.S. national team camp while Aurelien Collin will miss the match with a hamstring strain. Ike Opara is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery. Lawrence Olum has left the club to join the Kenyan national team for Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

While many MLS clubs are dealing with the beginnings of the World Cup exodus, Sporting is in a particularly tough spot with midfielder Graham Zusi joining Besler in U.S. camp. Keeping clean sheets now becomes a considerably tougher chore for a club that has made a habit of it with five in 10 matches and an Eastern Conference-low eight goals conceded.

"It's something that we'll just have to deal with," coach Peter Vermes told the club's official website. 'It is what it is, and there's nothing we can do about it other than taking this game first, and then we'll deal with next week's as it comes. It's a little bit of a challenge for the group, but we've got more than enough guys that have capabilities of playing the game. We'll figure out some concoction."

The Fire (1-2-6), meanwhile, have allowed an average of two goals a game, which is among the worst in the league. They found an unconventional way to make it work in Saturday's 5-4 win at New York.

Trailing 2-1 at halftime, Chicago struck four times in the opening 19 minutes of the second half to take a 5-2 lead, then nearly handed the match back to the Red Bulls in the closing minutes.

Rookie Harry Shipp scored the first three goals of his career while Quincy Amarikwa scored in his third straight match.

"To get that first win is a weight off our shoulders, now we can focus on just playing and not worrying about getting the first win," Shipp told the club's official website. "We know we can get on a roll, we can beat any team in this league if we play well as we showed with this win on the road and a huge three points."

They now need to show some competency at home. Chicago is winless with three points out of four matches at Toyota Park after ending 2013 with a 5-0-2 home stretch.

The Fire don't have to worry about any World Cup call-ups as goalkeeper Sean Johnson was left off Jurgen Klinsmann's preliminary 30-man U.S. roster. Johnson is 4-1-2 with four shutouts against Sporting K.C., though he's gone 10 straight matches without a clean sheet - the second longest stretch of his career after going 12 straight from July 18-Oct. 3, 2012.

Kansas City suffered its first home loss in Wednesday's 2-1 final against Philadelphia. Dom Dwyer scored his team-leading seventh goal in 10 matches as his breakout season continues. The forward managed three goals in 21 matches a season ago.

Kansas City and Chicago left things undecided in three games last season with a draw and a win each, resulting in a 2-2 aggregate.