Sporting Kansas City were held to a 1-1 stalemate at home by the Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Dom Dwyer opened the scoring, but Mike Magee equalised for the Fire who have made a habit of drawing matches this campaign.
They will have emerged much the happier side though, as the Wizards slipped to their fourth-straight game without a win, despite the return from international duty of Graham Zusi.
World Cup duo Zusi and Matt Besler have been linked with moves away from Major League Soccer this week, but while the latter expressed his love for the team, SKC manager Peter Vermes pondered, “Why would they want to leave? All their success has been found here. Why do you want to move on if you're here, you make a good living and you have all that opportunity?”
Neither of the pair were selected to start this clash, but Besler’s regular defensive partner Aurelien Collin made a crucial interception in just the second minute. Magee pounced on a Kansas City error and rounded goalkeeper Stefan Frei, but the French centre-back got back to clear away from his goal-line.
Remarkably, Sporting goal-getter Dwyer then had to match his teammate’s heroics, as he got in the way of Patrick Ianni’s on-target header.
In a partisan atmosphere – with popular ditty “I believe that we will win” belted out by the home support – the champions started to grow into the match, and Soony Saad should have done more to beat Sean Johnson when clean through.
The Chicago stopper had to be alert once more to clutch Dwyer’s effort after the Englishman had set himself up for an acrobatic volley. However, the Fire remained a threat on the break and Magee was again the instigator of their next chance – timing his run to perfection and striking the post with a bobbling left-footed shot.
But Dwyer is one of the most clinical forwards in the division this year, and when he pounced on a defensive error, his cool finish found the corner. As the ticker-tape poured down on the dejected Illinoisans, the 12-goal front-man collected a booking for his celebration – a selfie in front of Sporting Park’s South Stand.
The response was instant though, with 2013 MVP Magee desperate not to be overshadowed, he replicated his opponent’s finish to level the scores after yet more sloppy play had allowed Alex to take possession.
Disappointed, the Wizards attacked once more but referee Alan Kelly swiftly brought an action-packed first period to an end. The interval did nothing to stem the flow of offensive football, however, and it was the hosts who picked up where they’d left off with Jacob Peterson and Saad firing wide.
At the other end, some nice link-up play between Magee and Harry Shipp gave Dilly Duka a sight of goal, but he failed to make a clean contact. The 24-year-old was able to create for rookie Shipp seconds later though, as his low fizzer flew past the post.
Perhaps concerned that the game was slipping out of his reach, Vermes summoned Zusi from the bench to great cheer from the United States star’s adoring public, and his trademark deliveries caused immediate problems for the Men in Red. From consecutive centres, Johnson gathered a downwards nod, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado sliced over his own cross-bar and Dwyer went close with a scissor-kick.
Chicago’s goalkeeper fumbled Peterson’s thump behind for a corner, but the players in front of him were defending resolutely.
Johnson was required to be at his very best in stoppage time though, as he parried Peterson’s drive and threw his body at CJ Sapong’s close-range rebound. That save proved to be enough to earn the Fire a point – Frank Yallop’s men surviving under incredible pressure.
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