Photo by ISIPhotos.com
Sporting Kansas City's hold on the Eastern Conference got even tighter on Friday as the East leaders outplayed their closest competitor in the East to post an impressive victory and extend their lead to five points.
Graham Zusi scored goals in each half and Sporting KC's defense posted another shutout to earn a 2-0 victory against the Fire at LiveStrong Sporting Park.
Kei Kamara helped open the scoring in the 11th minute when he beat Gonzales Segare with a run down the right flank before delivering a low cross into the box that found a streaking Zusi, who calmly deposited it past Sean Johnson to give KC the early lead.
Sporting KC controlled the rest of the first half, limiting Chicago's chances and dominating possession. The second half was a different story, with the Fire finding more of the ball and testing KC's defense on multiple occasions with dangerous sequences. Unfortunately for the Fire, not enough of those sequences produced actually dangerous chances on Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
The Fire pushed hard late in the match for an equalizer, and saw second-half substitute Guillermo Franco trouble the KC back-line. He went down on a pair of occasions as he went at the Sporting defense, including one play which looked like a clear foul by Matt Besler just 20 yards from goal, but failed to draw a free kick on either occasion. The questionable decisions angered Fire manager Frank Klopas to the point that he earned an ejection for complaining to the fourth official and for leaving his technical area.
The Fire also lost Segares late in the match when he drew a second yellow card for a foul on C.J. Sapong.
Sporting continued to defend well and ultimately sealed the victory in the sixth minute of stoppage time when Zusi deposited an 18-yard shot past Johnson for his second goal of the night.
Here are the match highlights:
The victory increased Sporting KC's lead atop the Eastern Conference to five points with three matches remaining. It also moved Sporting KC to within two points of the San Jose Earthquakes in the Supporters Shield race. The Fire is now five points back in second place, but do have a game in hand on Sporting KC.
What did you think of the match? Impressed with Sporting KC's team defending? Is Graham Zusi playing the best soccer in the league right now? Think the referee cost Chicago the match?
Share your thoughts below.