Chicago has not lost a home match to an Eastern Conference opponent since October 2010. That streak was put to the test Saturday night when conference leaders Sporting Kansas City entered Toyota Park to take on the Fire.
A second half red card to Roger Espinoza and a late goal by Dominic Oduro kept Chicago's unbeaten streak in tact, while also extending Sporting KC's own losing streak in the process.
A Chicago Fire penalty kick, a red card to Roger Espinoza and Dominic Oduro's game-winning goal helped the Fire post a 2-1 victory over Sporting KC on Saturday night.
Bobby Convey gave Sporting KC an early lead, but Sebastian Grazini equalized from the penalty spot shortly before drawing the red card on Espinoza after being caught in the face with an elbow. Chicago made full use of the man advantage, completing their turnaround when Oduro headed home his fourth goal of the season.
After the match, Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes voiced his displeasure with the decisive red card, implying the club would appeal the decision.
“We’ll be watching it. We’ll be watching what the angles are…..because that’s a big part of the appeal, and we’ll make a decision from there," Vermes said. "As of right now, it probably looks pretty darn good. Just a first time referee in the MLS, makes a very, very poor decision.”
Chicago spent much of the early going unable to produce any quality chances. The Fire failed to register a shot on goal in the first half, and were forced to adjust their defense when German international Arne Friedrich sustained a hamstring strain in the 29th minute. Dan Gargan, who Frank Klopas was hoping to rest over the weekend, was forced to enter the match. Kansas City capitalized on Chicago's disarray two minutes later when a Kei Kamara cross connected with Bobby Convey, who slipped his shot past Chicago's Sean Johnson to the far post, giving Kansas City the 1-0 lead.
Kansas City's lead lasted well into the 2nd half, when Dominic Oduro was brought down in the box by Aurelien Collin in the 60th minute. Sebastian Grazzini buried the penalty kick to draw Chicago even at a goal a piece. Just a few minutes later, a poor challenge by Roger Espinoza proved to be a pivotal point in the match. Espinoza came in on Chicago midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, swinging his elbow and connecting with Grazzini in the face. The foul was severe enough to warrant a straight red card from referee Jose Rivero, and shifted the momentum of the game in Chicago's favor.
Chicago continued to push after going a man up. In the 81st minute, Chicago again took advantage of a Sporting KC mistake, as Patrick Nyarko dispossessed Kei Kamara's attempted clearance, sending the ball into the six-yard box, where Oduro again involved himself in a crucial moment, this time slotting his 4th goal of the season past Jimmy Nielsen to give Chicago the 2-1 lead.
“Sometimes when a team gets a red card and play shorthanded, the team does better at times," Fire head coach Frank Klopas said. "But I thought that we had a very good second half. The red card helped a little bit, but our ability to be patient and move the ball was key."
"Sometimes when you have that advantage, you play very individualistic and not as a team. But I felt that we were very good with the ball,” Klopas added.
Chicago now gets a full week break to prepare for their next match against Portland Timbers, where they hope to continue their 3-game unbeaten streak. Sporting KC will look to break their three-match losing streak by beating the Colorado Rapids on the road.