Sporting Kansas City lost for the fourth time in five games and almost certainly will slip from first place in the Eastern Conference before the weekend is finished.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
In fact, Sporting KC could slide to as low as fourth place after a 1-0 loss Friday on the road against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
“Not every game goes your way, but it’s unfortunate ... because we dominated in a lot of respects,” manager Peter Vermes said. “We gave up a terrible goal to start the half off and then we’re chasing the game all the way through.”
It was a familiar story for Sporting KC, 11-9-6, statistically dominant — 59.3 percent of the possession, an 18-12 edge in shots, more crosses into the box (17-11) and superior passing accuracy (80 percent-65) — but with a loss on the ledger.
The Fire, 10-10-4, broke through in the 13th minute when right back Jalil Anibaba corkscrewed a cross from the right flank to the far post, where midfielder Mike Magee centered the ball with a sliding pass that split right back Chance Myers and centerback Aurelien Collin.
Making only his second MLS start, Fire centerback Hunter Jumper dove low and headed the ball in for what proved to be the game’s only goal.
“We weren’t marked up in the box,” Vermes said. “We were sleeping. The ball went to the back post, Magee makes a great run to find himself on the end, plays it across and they score. But defensively, it’s terrible on a set piece that started with a throw-in. It was very, very amateur.”
Meanwhile, Sporting KC whiffed on several golden opportunities, including two first-half sitters off long throw-ins from Matt Besler.
During the second minute, Graham Zusi, who had missed the last three matches with a right quad strain, got on the end of a Besler throw-in, but his left-footed try from atop the goal box sailed high.
Trailing 1-0, forward Teal Bunbury, who made his first start since tearing his ACL nearly a year ago, collected another long throw-in at the penalty spot, but sent his right-footed drive high.
Two minutes later, Bunbury got a toe on a cross that bundled through, but couldn’t get nearly enough power behind the shot to beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
During the 40th minute, Austin Berry saved Johnson by nicking the ball away from a sliding C.J. Sapong to clear a dangerous Benny Feilhaber cross to safety.
“We had a lot of quality chances, and we should have put at least one away, but we didn’t,” Vermes said. “We absolutely should have. It was just a lack of clinical finishing. At the end of the day, we had more than enough chances in and around their box to score and we didn’t.”
Sapong, who was briefly loaned to Orlando City SC, returned to the starting lineup for the first time in two months.
The chances kept coming in the second half, especially late.
During the 81st minute, Peterson Joseph played a gorgeous half-volley pass from the midfield for second-half sub Dom Dwyer, whose first touch was heavy or he might have been in for the equalizer.
Two minutes later, Dwyer long, lofted header smacked the crossbar as the tying goal never came.
Johnson denied a blast from left back Seth Sinovic during the 86th minute at the left post.
Of course, it might have been worse were it not for Jimmy Nielsen.
Nielsen punched away a 20-yard drive by Alex in the 16th minute and denied Magee’s close-range blast 10 minutes later.
Fire forward Chris Rolfe blew a golden opportunity when he blew a two-man breakaway, eschewing a touch wide left to Magee for a curling shot that was never on frame at the near post.
Meanwhile, Nielsen came up big again in the 74th minute when second-half substitute Juan Luis Anangono blasted a point-blank shot around a defender that the All-Star goalkeeper from Denmark tipped it off the crossbar with a fingertip save.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.