CHICAGO — Defensive miscues and an anemic attack made for a bad combination Saturday evening as Sporting KC fell to the Chicago Fire 3-1. It was Sporting KC’s third loss in four matches to start the season.
Kacper Przybylko bagged a brace for the home side, joined by Xherdan Shaqiri on the scoresheet. Roger Espinoza scored for Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting KC trotted out an unorthodox lineup for this match, owing to a litany of injuries. They chose to run a midfield-heavy formation with Graham Zusi and Ben Sweat playing wing back, and Cam Duke joining Nikola Vujnovic up top.
Roger Espinoza © with the armband this afternoon #SportingKC | @BlueKC pic.twitter.com/4k2iagu7Qs— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) March 19, 2022
After a nervy first few minutes, Sporting Kansas City settled into the match — their realigned midfield clogging up opportunities for the Fire and leading to controlled possession. While they never really threatened the Fire’s defense, it did seem as it Sporting Kansas City was more or less in control.
However, as the half wore on, Sporting KC’s midfield wall began to break and opportunities started to come through for the Fire. One of the closest opportunities came in the 23rd minute when Boris Sekulic played a ball to Fabian Herbers, making a run through the center of the pitch that, if he had been able to corral it, would have had him alone on goal, but the ball was just out of reach.
In the 30th minute, the Fire broke through. Following a turnover by Ben Sweat, Herbers took possession and found Kacper Przybylko making a run behind the Sporting KC back line. While Prszybylko’s angle was cut off by Melia, Prszybylko was able to sneak it through Melia’s legs and into the net for his first goal with the Fire.
For the remainder of the half, the Fire took control and put Sporting KC on the back heel. They put together a couple more opportunities but all non-threatening. Still, the home side carried the momentum into the break, leading 1-0.
The second half didn’t start much better for Sporting KC. In the 49th minute, Mauricio Pineda had the ball in the box and made an attempt to shoot, but his leg was blocked by Fontas, knocking him to the ground. The ball was cleared away, but a penalty had been called. Xherdan Shaqiri put in the ensuing shot from the spot and doubled the Fire’s lead.
In the 56th minute, Sporting KC pulled one back. Coming in from the left wing, Felipe Hernandez slotted the ball through the box and found Roger Espinoza, who tapped it home for the goal. It was the first assist and first goal of the year for Hernandez and Espinoza respectively, and gave Sporting KC a chance to level.
But the dagger came in the 82nd minute. A defensive lapse let a herd of Fire men into the box, giving Brian Gutierrez, once he outmaneuvered Rémi Walter, a number of options to cross to. It was Przybylko who received the opportunity and he put it home for his second of the match.
Sporting KC got one last opportunity in stoppage time as Vujnovic got a good shot off from just inside the box, but it was right at Fire keeper Gaga Slonina to keep the score as it would become final: 3-1 Chicago.
Sporting KC (1-3-0) return home next weekend to take on Real Salt Lake.