Fire hang on for 1-0 victory over Sporting KC


Fire hang on for 1-0 victory over Sporting KC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas knew that Sporting Kansas City would be pushing the issue on a sweltering night at Livestrong Sporting Park, and his team was ready to capitalize when the right opportunity presented itself.

Marco Pappa led a counter-attack the length of the field in the 58th minute, initiating a nifty give-and-go play with Chris Rolfe and slamming home the return pass for his fifth goal of the year, giving the Fire a 1-0 victory and their third straight win.

"You look at a play like that, they're pushing the numbers forward," Klopas said afterward, his shirt drenched in sweat. "The ball just came out and we had transition numbers. I know Marco finished it off, but Chris handled the break very well."

The Fire (8-5-3) have won three straight for the first time all year, and they still haven't lost to Sporting KC (9-5-2) on the road since the 2007 season, despite getting outshot 27-10.

Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson saved all five shots on target for his second shutout.

"They got one opportunity and capitalized on it, and at the other end, Sean Johnson was a beast," said Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury, who had one of several excellent changes to score a tying goal during a flurry of shots in stoppage time.

The first came when Bunbury spun and fired from the wing, and the ball sailed just wide of the goal. Soony Saad had another chance from close range that Johnson managed to save, and Chance Myers nearly netted the tying goal with his own shot just before time expired.

"We had 27 shots. It's not like what we're trying to do didn't happen. We just didn't stick it in the back of the net," Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. "It was pretty even in the first half. I thought we were all over them in the second half. We made a mistake on the run-out play - we had too many guys forward and nobody back, and they executed it very well."

Sporting KC and Chicago are going different directions in the Eastern Conference race, though both of them are still within striking distance of D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.

Sporting KC was coming off a victory over the Dayton Dutch Lions to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup, but still stumbled in its return to MLS play. Vermes' squad was playing for the fifth time in 14 days, a run of games that includes a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia.

Chicago built on its victory over the Red Bulls and a 2-1 defeat of the Columbus Crew, when it went a man down and still managed to hang on down the stretch.

It was a good thing no red cards flew on Friday night - it was hard enough dealing with the near-record-setting temperatures that have scorched the Midwest, and forced many players to double over and both coaches to carefully consider their substitutions.

Brazilian midfielder Alex Monteiro De Lima - known simply as Alex - made his debut for Chicago in the 65th minute. The former striker for Swiss club FC Wohlen had a couple of chances in front of the Sporting KC goal late in the second half but was unable to convert.

Pappa didn't have the same trouble on his breakaway, and it wound up being the difference.

"Obviously it was a great win, and we knew it would be a great match," Klopas said. "Sporting Kansas City is a great team, and we knew it would be difficult to come in here and get points."

Match stats
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Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

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Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

CLEVELAND - It doesn't take long for the 2016 Cubs to rebound.

Their American League-style lineup is just simply too talented to keep down for an extended period of time, especially with Kyle Schwarber now added back into the fold.

They Cubs hitters are so confident, they even left Progressive Field feeling good about themselves despite being shut out in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Cubs got on the board early Wednesday night, plating a run on the third batter of the game as Anthony Rizzo doubled home Kris Bryant.

"Take the momentum away. Take the crowd out of it," Bryant said. "It's nice to score first. Especially when you're the visiting team, to get out there and score within the first three batters is huge."

The early lead helped the lineup settle in and keep their foot on the gas for a 5-1 victory to take the series back to Wrigley Field tied one game apiece.

"Especially with a young lineup, I think when you see a few guys go up there and take some good quality at-bats, one happens after the other and the other guys seem to do the same thing," Ben Zobrist said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. When you see other guys having good, quality at-bats, you don't feel like you have to take pitches and you can be aggressive early on. 

"Oftentimes when you're aggressive in the zone is when you take the tough ones. We did a good job tonight laying off some good pitches. When they made mistakes in the zone, we really hit the ball hard. Even though we scored five runs, obviously we had a lot of baserunners on and we could've scored a lot more."

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Zobrist has a point.

The night after leaving nine runners on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs left 13 runners on base and tallied just three hits in 12 tries with runners in scoring position.

Between nine hits and eight walks, there were Cubs on base all game. Indians pitchers didn't retire Cubs hitters in order in an inning until the seventh.

The Cubs also forced the Indians to throw 196 pitches in nine innings and worked starter Trevor Bauer to 51 pitches through the first two frames.

"That was good for us," Bryant said. "We saw a lot of their bullpen, so we have a lot of information to learn from and hopefully use in the next game."

Anthony Rizzo summed up the lineup's mentality simply:

"Grind out at-bats, work the pitcher's pitch count up and get the next guy up," he said.

That "pass the baton" mentality is what drives this offense and after a brief lull in that regard in Los Angeles when they were shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS, the Cubs leave Cleveland feeling pretty good.

"When we're able to [get pitch counts up], you can kinda feel it - our offense really feeds off of that," Zobrist said. "We believe that we're going to break through eventually."