Sporting KC snap Fire's unbeaten streak

Sporting KC snap Fire's unbeaten streak
July 7, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Len Ziehm

Losses on a home field are never to be taken lightly, but the Fire’s 2-1 defeat against Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Park on Sunday couldn’t have been more ill-timed.

It came on the same day that the Fire introduced bobble-heads honoring defender Austin Berry. It also came on the same day that striker Mike Magee was named to Major League Soccer’s All-Star team, which will face AS Roma at Kansas City’s Sporting Park on July 31. And, it also came before the biggest home crowd (17,735) of the season.

Gone is the nine-game unbeaten streak across all competitions as well as a 4-0-2 run in MLS matches that had put the Fire in playoff contention after a dismal start to the season.

The Fire, continuing a dangerous trend of starting matches too slowly, allowed two goals in the first eight minutes. This time the Fire (6-8-3) couldn’t recover, and Berry was naturally upset.

"We have to have the mentality of being the first to challenge for the ball and not let it bounce," he said. "The older guys and leaders need to make sure everyone is ready to go, and I think we were. We just weren’t tight enough, just not sharp enough for the first 10 minutes."

Magee got one of the goals back before halftime. It was his 11th MLS tally of the season, which moved him into a tie with Marco DiVaio of Montreal for the lead in the Golden Boot race. Magee has scored in a goal in every match but one since coming to the Fire, and in the one miss he assisted on a game-winner.

Continuing his all-about-the-team approach, Magee refused to talk about individual accomplishments afterwards. But he had plenty to say about his team’s play, and none of it was nice. Logan Pause and Jeff Larentowicz may be the ones wearing the captain’s armbands this season, but there’s no question who the real team leader is.

"We started playing like (expletive) and finished worse," said Magee. "All I’m thinking about is how badly this loss feels at home in front of our biggest crowd that we’ve had since I’ve been here. We literally laid down."

Falling behind isn’t new to the Fire, but the way the team retaliated this time was.

"We felt the game was tied or we were winning. We were just going to sit back and be content," said Magee. "Unfortunately we were down 2-1, so it wasn’t a very good game plan. It’s déjà vu. We’ve been saying it after every game that eventually (allowing the first goals) was going to catch up to us. Obviously this time it did."

The Fire’s play against SKC (8-5-6) could have ramifications in the next MLS match, on Sunday at Vancouver. The Fire will be without defender Gonzalo Segares and midfielder Daniel Paladini in that one. Segares went over the limit on yellow cards when he drew one against SKC. Paladini was handed a red card for a late game tackle. Both infractions require one-game suspensions that will kick in against the Whitecaps.

Before going to Canada, the Fire will play before its biggest crowd of the season so far -– and most likely its biggest crowd of the season in Bridgeview. Mexico’s Club America is coming on Wednesday for the lone international friendly of the season.

Fire officials are expecting a standing room only crowd of over 20,000, but not a repeat of Club America’s preseason match against Mexican rival Chivas of Guadalajara last week. That one, played in Las Vegas, resulted in a brawl.

Fire-Club America won’t be like that, based on previous spirited matches between the teams, and it’ll certainly be a better example of exhibition soccer than that produced at Soldier Field on Saturday night. The Messi & Friends vs. The World event was a fiasco.

The match, one of a series planned to raise money for featured Argentine superstar Lionel Messi’s charities, was planned as a top dollar event. When ticket sales were lower than anticipated the prices were lowered three weeks before the match, but parking was a hefty $40 on Saturday and promoters said 25,000 tickets were sold. Some paid in excess of $2,000 for a meet-and-greet with Messi afterwards.

What they got was something of far lesser value. Messi’s team won 9-6 against a "World" all-star team that included 10 Northwestern University players. One of them, alum Matt Eliason, scored on a bicycle kick. It was a spectacular goal, one replayed on highlight films shown by TV outlets. That was the only good thing about this exhibition. Messi left the match in the 69th minute and departed the stadium without doing post-game duties with the fans or media. Chicago soccer doesn’t need exhibitions like this one.

Fourth of July festivities did produce two big wins, a 6-0 romp by the U.S. nationals against Guatemala in San Diego, and the Chicago Red Stars’ 1-0 upset of the Western New York Flash in the National Women’s Soccer League. The Red Stars (4-6-3), who knocked off one of the strongest teams –- the Flash is 6-3-4 , visit the Washington Spirit on Wednesday.

The U.S. romp over Guatemala was a fine tuneup for a tournament that really matters -– the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It’ll be conducted through the U.S. in July with the championship match on July 28 at Soldier Field. The U.S. faces Belize in its first Gold Cup match on Tuesday in Portland.