Breakdown: Fire at Sporting Kansas City

Graham Zusi (8) of Sporting Kansas City controls the ball against Gonzalo Segares (13) of the Chicago Fire in Kansas City, Kansas, at Sporting Park on Sunday, July 6, 2014.

Graham Zusi dominates, but Sporting KC drops two points to the Fire (kansascity.com)

T.J. Zaremba dissects another one point pick up for the Fire.

On the surface, the Chicago Fire tying another game is not news worthy. After all, they are the “Kings of the Draw”.

But, considering Sporting KC is number two in the East, did not have a midweek game, returned US International Graham Zusi to their 18 and were in front of their fans at Sporting Park, I conclude the Fire took a point instead of dropping two.

Frank Yallop’s makeshift lineup was addition by subtraction. The absence of Amarikwa and Larentowicz allowed some young players to step into better-suited roles.

Four changes to the starting 11 for the Fire (mlssoccer.com)

Four changes from Wednesday for the Fire (mlssoccer.com)

Chris Ritter became the facilitator instead just a defensive midfielder.

Ritter can do things when allowed to (squawka.com)

Ritter can do things when allowed to (squawka.com)

It allowed Harry Shipp to be in the center of the park, which eliminates a huge hole on the left side of the Fire’s counter-attack defense. Alex manned the left side excellently before coming off at half due to injury.

Dilly Duka was unable to duplicate Alex’s production in the second half.

Alex & Shipp were solid.  Shipp & Duka not as much (squawka.com)

Alex & Shipp were solid. Shipp & Duka not as much (squawka.com)

Finally, it put the captain’s band on Mike Magee. He stepped up with a MOTM performance for Squakwa. To me, the most impressive part was his defensive work when required.

Inspirational Captain Mike? (mlssoccer.com)

Inspirational Captain Mike? (mlssoccer.com)

LEGEND FOR FIELD PLAYERS

  • Circle = Shot; Soccer Ball = Goal (Green = On Target; Red = Off Target; Yellow  = Blocked)
  • Squares = Distribution (Green = Successful; Red = Unsuccessful; Yellow = Key Passes;  Blue = Assist)
  • Inverted Triangle = Dribbling (Green = Successful; Red = Unsuccessful)
  • Upright Triangle = Defense (Blue = Interception; Gold = Recovery; Purple = Clearance; Green = Tackles; Yellow = Blocks)

This lead to the Fire’s several quality chances in the first half, including Mike Magee’s miss in the 2nd minute (not included in the graphic).

Once chance was so good, it didn't make the chart (squawka.com)

Once chance was so good, it didn’t make the chart (squawka.com)

Overall, it was an even first half with each team taking advantage of awful turnovers in the back, as Squawka’s numbers indicate.

Interesting numbers for this match (squawka.com)

Interesting numbers for this match (squawka.com)

However, the second half was a different story. Aside from two great chances in the 57th minute for the Fire, Sporting KC controlled the game.

The inclusion of a fresh Graham Zusi in the 63rd minute played a big part of Sporting KC’s domination.

Zusi was a one man wrecking crew (mlssoccer.com)

Zusi was a one man wrecking crew (mlssoccer.com)

From that point on, the Fire went into all-out defending and played for a draw. It leads to a statistical beat down for the entire game.

SKC wins passing battle by 2 to 1 margin (mlssoccer.com)

SKC wins passing battle by 2 to 1 margin (mlssoccer.com)

The Fire rarely had possession in the second half.

No 2nd half possession for the Fire (mlssoccer.com)

No 2nd half possession for the Fire (mlssoccer.com)

When they did have possession, they gave it right back. They completed 36% of their passes after the 60th minute. Let me say that again, 36 PERCENT while playing with 11 players!

12 completed passes in the final 30 minutes (squawka.com)

12 completed passes in the final 30 minutes (squawka.com)

The Fire countered that move with bringing on Bakary Soumare, and the Malian center-back was huge in preserving the draw.

Not often one can say Soumare had a positive impact this season (mlssoccer.com)

Not often one can say Soumare had a positive impact this season (mlssoccer.com)

Sean Johnson’s performance improved as the defending became more desperate.

Sean John there when called upon most (squawka.com)

Sean John was big when needed. (squawka.com)

A point on the road against the defending champs minus two regulars is a good result. However, the Fire gave away too many points earlier this season, and their league leading 10th draw puts the Men In Red one step closer to playoff elimination.

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Follow OTF Soccer on Twitter @OTFSoccer

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T.J. Zaremba was BarnBurner #110 and 1998 second-half season ticket holder in Section 8 of pre-mothership Soldier Field. After over a decade on walkabout, with a handful of guest appearances, he returned in 2011 and has been a regular (when his commitment to Uncle Sam allows it) at Toyota Park with his wife and the Hamster. Follow T.J. @TJZaremba

*infographics courtesy of mlssoccer.com and squwaka.com

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