September 27, 2012
A look at the upcoming game
Chicago Fire (16-8-5, 53 pts)@ Sporting Kansas City (16-7-7, 55 pts), 7:30 pm CT (NBCSN)
First place in the MLS East, and quite possibly a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs, will be at stake when the Chicago Fire visit Sporting Kansas City on Friday night. A win will guarantee Sporting a postseason berth. A Fire victory won’t punch Chicago’s playoff ticket directly, but will put them in position to nail down a spot with help from conference rivals Philadelphia and/or New England. After last weekend’s 2-1 win over Columbus, Chicago are on their longest winning streak in seven years, four games, during which they have scored at least two goals per game, leaving them second in the conference and only two points behind SKC. The Fire have not lost in Kansas City since 2007, but four of the six matches over that time have been draws. Sporting have taken four points from their last two games, including a 2-0 win last Wednesday that snapped the New York Red Bulls’ 16-game home unbeaten streak. They followed that up with a scoreless draw at one of the league’s toughest road venues, the Montreal Impact’s Stade Saputo. The Fire have won both of the previous meetings between the teams this season, 2-1 at Toyota Park on May 12 and 1-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park on June 29. However, the scorers of two of those three Chicago goals, Sebastian Grazzini and Marco Pappa, have moved on, replaced by Sherjill MacDonald and Alvaro Fernandez. Defense has played a big part in both teams’ rise to the top of the conference. KC netminder Jimmy Nielsen leads the league with 13 shutouts and a 0.83 g.a.a., while Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson and his backline have held opponents to one goal of less in eight of their last nine matches.