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Fire hang on for 1-0 victory over Sporting KC
By DAVE SKRETTA
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) 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.
Parra 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."
Updated June 29, 2012