There was a packed house per usual at LIVESTRONG for Friday night’s pivotal game against the Chicago Fire…
The Fire sat just two points back of Eastern Conference leading Sporting KC.
The winner would not only be on top of the table in the east, but with only a few games left in the regular season they would take a huge step toward locking up home field advantage in the playoffs.
It was actually the largest crowd to date at over 21,000.
“I think tonight the fans were at their absolute best,” said Man of the Match Graham Zusi afterwards. “Probably the best I’ve seen them and there’s no doubt in my mind that we can continue that throughout the playoffs.”
KC took an early lead with a sweet goal from Zusi in the 10th minute.
Kei Kamara turned a player in the midfield and streaked 40 yards down the right flank before laying a ball back to Zusi for a one timer from about 14 yards out. The keeper had no chance.
No Aurelien Collin. What’s up with that?
After the first goal the chances for either team were few and far between. Sporting was content to knock it around the back, and Chicago wasn’t all that intent on pressing that early in the game.
The second half was a totally different game.
Around the 7oth minute, and just after the insertion of Dominic Oduro, things started to go Chicago’s way. They began knocking the ball around the back, pulling KC’s defense out of shape.
But as quickly as the Fire gained the momentum, KC took it right back with several half chances after some good long strings of possession in the attacking third.
Back and forth it went for the remainder of the match, with Chicago desperately pushing men forward.
Is it time to replace Julio?
This was the third or fourth game in a row that he had unacceptable giveaways in the back. Luckily, nothing came of any of them.
Zusi ended his stellar night by plunging in the dagger in stoppage time, putting the game to bed at 2-0 on a breakaway where had a couple options but decided to take a crack himself.
“Two great goals by Graham,” said KC boss Peter Vermes. “The first one was world class, the second one was a nail in the coffin at a great time.”
Overall, a solid effort from Sporting. A real workmanlike effort that showed they are learning a little bit how to win within their style, not despite it.
And Zusi with the brace showed his class. He seems to be playing his best ball at the exact right time, and you can see his teammates’ body language showing their confidence in him.
Not to be overlooked was White Puma Jimmy Nielsen. He recorded his league-high 14th shutout of the season, but was quick to heap praise on his defense.
“This is one of those games again where I absolutely cannot take any credit for the shutout,” said the Puma. “We did an awesome job defensively, and I thought we were very smart with the ball. Chicago got a little dangerous in the second half but we recovered quickly and got it sorted out.”
The win also clinches a playoff spot for SKC, and they’re not out of the Supporter’s Shield race yet either.
Things are getting good, stay tuned KC sports fans…