Sporting KC 2 Fire 0 - recap and ratings

The Fire lost out on an opportunity to take possession of first place in the Eastern Conference but not all is lost.  Although the outcome is certainly a disappointment given the expectations building up to this match, the club still has time to make up ground and possibly capture the top spot in the East if they win the games they are supposed to win during the last month of the season.

The unfortunate part of the outcome from the Fire's standpoint is the manner in which the first half was played.  Chicago rarely had an answer for Sporting's high pressure and were not able to maintain much possession or cohesion in the passing game turning ball the over continuously.  The second half started in much the same fashion although the Fire seemed to regain some advantage at around the sixtieth minute as the urgency to push for an equalizer changed the club's dynamic on the pitch.  Kansas City, a team that boasts the best defensive record in MLS was able to hold on despite a flurry of rushes and they may have received a helping hand from refereee Chris Penso.

Make no mistake about it.  Kansas City was the better team on the night and deserved the three points but another questionable performance from Penso certainly made a mockery of the final twenty minutes of the match.  Frank Klopas was dismissed in the 93rd minute after Penso failed to whistle a fairly obvious foul against Sporting near the top of the penalty area and Gonzalo Segares was shown a second yellow card for a harmless foul in the 94th.  MLS can't afford to cheapen their product with referees who are not up to par and Penso is one of those who should be shown the door.

Both Klopas and Segares will miss the Fire's next match on Wednesday night against Philadelphia.  While this game didn't provide the outcome supporters were hoping for the Fire can still finish the season strong heading into the playoffs if they take care of business on their end.  This match simply proved that Sporting Kansas City is a dangerous club that has earned their current standing at the top of the East.  Good teams win at home.

Player Ratings

GK Sean Johnson (6) - Zusi converted on two well placed strikes and the final tally was scored as the Fire were pushing forward in the waning seconds.  Johnson kept Sporting from taking a two goal lead with a spectacular save against Kamara in the 36th minute.

D Jalil Anibaba (6) - A decent effort for the second year right back although it appeared that he was beaten to the ball on Zusi's first goal.  A closer look at the the development of the play shows that Anibaba didn't have much chance or time to react as Zusi found some space in front of the retreating back line.  The goal was made by Kamara's run up the left side of the defense.  He was stronger in the second half than he was in the first.

D Arne Friedrich (6) - Kansas City serves in cross after cross and the Fire's central defenders were up to the task most of the night.  Also pushed forward several times and was able to generate some offense when the center of midfield could not.

D Austin Berry (6) - Kamara and Sapong are big, fast forwards who are difficult to deal with.  Sporting scored twice but they didn't have many quality chances either despite the large edge in possession.

D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Beaten by Kamara on the play that led to the first goal.  Gambled and tried to play the ball in the 11th minute which allowed Kamara to get behind him and streak towards goal.  His second yellow card and dismissal was a pretty weak call.

M Logan Pause (5) - Decent in the first half but opposition once again had way too much of time on the ball.  This match may have illustrated where the Fire miss Pavel Pardo for the first time since the veteran midfielder has been absent due to injury.

M Alex (5) - Pretty quiet night in his third consecutive start at the position.  The Fire may have been playing too deep to really be effective in the first half thereby nullifying Alex somewhat.

M Patrick Nyarko (5) -Had a difficult time getting the space he's accustomed to creating with his skill on the ball.  Credit to the Kansas City defense for neutralizing him but they did take a physical approach to stopping him.

M Alvaro Fernandez (5) - The Fire didn't get much out of the flanks where they needed to hurt Kansas City as their fullbacks pushed forward.  Fernandez was one of the main culprits in the turnover fest that was the first half.

F Chris Rolfe (5) - Missed a good chance wide in the 6th minute that would have changed the match dramatically.  Sporting physical style of defending and pressure moved Rolfe a little further into midfield than you would like and denied him the space the receive the ball in dangerous spots.

F Sherjill MacDonald (5) - There wasn't a whole lot from MacDonald as the Fire struggled to string enough passes together to get the ball up to their big forward.

F/M - Dominic Oduro (5) - Came in for Alex in the 61st minute moving Rolfe into the center spot of a 4-4-2 formation.  This change opened up the match a little but failed to produce any big chances.

F Guillermo Franco (6) - Subbed in for Nyarko in the 71st and showed some flashes of what he might be able to provide in 20 minute spurts down the stretch.  A fancy series of moves allowed the Fire to earn a corner kick in the 81st and he should have drawn a foul after being tripped from behind near the top of the penalty area in the 91st.  Penso missed the call and missed yet another one minute later.

M Daniel Paladini (5) - Entered the match for Pause in the 80th as Klopas looked to get as much offense on the field as possible.

C Frank Klopas (5) - Didn't get a result in this one and things weren't pretty in the first half.  Give Kansas City credit but Klopas wasn't happy with the way the match ended.  There's still time to make up ground on KC and one loss on the road shouldn't be overblown.


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  • Not a pretty first half, but not an unexpected result. Gives the Fire some motivation through the end of the season. Another example of the need for improvement in refs.

  • In reply to fireaddict:

    i don't see an improvement in the refs because the commish is too focused on NY2 than anything else at the moment.

  • well that one sucked. it seems that the fire have a tough time when opposing teams play a high pressure against them and frank has no solution for it, imo.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    It seems that they realize what they did wrong in the first half judging by the post game comments. They played way too deep and allowed KC to take control. If the last 30 minutes are any indication they may have found a counter. Of course Klopas unloaded the full artillery during that time with Oduro, Franco, MacDonald, and Rolfe all on the pitch.

  • main problem i had with penso was the way he was calling the match, it was bound to get out of control, and as we saw near the end, he definately lost control of the match

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    ok - i'm back... after one day, still..

    i give KC credit, they took it to us in the first half. good display of where we need to improve as a team.

    i was already frustrated at us, but the F'in!!!!! ref made the game unwatchable at the end there. its effing reffing like this that ticks me off at MLS. yes, i will lay the whole lot on one lousy ref! because you all know, the rest of them aren't much better.

    love Fire, almost ready to give up on MLS and american soccer. you all have to admit. our current competition format is $#!+ compared to what we see every week in Europe.

    i apologize. the ref rant has spilled outside the lines.

  • In reply to waam:

    I completely agree with this. Not only did the ref let the game let it get out of control, p;ayers are going to get hut and good players won't come here. I have to say last night's game was the worst I have ever seen. The offside calls not called when the players stopped when the assistant's flag went yet the ref did not blow his whistle. I really feel that the Fire should appeal to the league to overturn the Sega red card. It was a ridiculous situation, but the ref created it. US Soccer supplies the refs so that is where the issue lies. Maybe we should hire refs from Mexico as they have far more experience. Let the MLS refs go back to reffing college games full time.

  • In reply to waam:

    What we see in Europe has developed over the course of the 80-plus year head start top flight soccer has had over MLS.

    That being said you still hear the same complaints about referees in every league in the world. That's not a defence of the lousy officiating we saw on Friday but we need to stop comparing the level of MLS to Europe because we all know it's just not there right now. Continuing to support the domestic leagues and local teams is the only way to get it there. A

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    One can argue that the foul that Segares committed that led to his second caution was questionable. But I apply what a current MLS referee once told me when he refereed an amateur league match involving my club. He had sent off one of my players after a second caution and the foul seemed soft; my striker arriving a split-second too late and bumping the GK slightly. He told me that a player who has been cautioned has to choose his challenges carefully. Segares could have avoided trouble at the end had he played things differently.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Valid point but Penso has struggled consistently to even come close to the standard of officiating quality that should be required to referee a league match. The Fire aren't the only club that's not happy with his performance this season.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I'm not too familiar with Penso. He's whistled 30 matches in MLS, according to this: MLS referees are assessed after every match. After two poor assessments, his name gets removed from the assignment list and US Soccer assigns him to matches in the USL until he demonstrates the necessary improvement.

    Based on the fact that they keep giving him MLS assignments, he can't be as bad as you've described him. Unless the problem lies with US Soccer, who keep trotting him out there. He's pretty much gotten a game every other week since the start of the 2011 season.

    With all of these MLS games under his belt, players have to know what kind of referee he is. All the more reason that a player who is already in the book has to alter the way he plays so he can avoid the send-off.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    That's an interesting site, thanks for pointing it out.

    I do stand by my original assessment of Penso's ability though. If you recall, he was also the referee responsible for the 8 minutes of stoppage time in San Jose earlier this season.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    If Penso is so bad, why do you suppose that he remains in the regular rotation of the referee assigners?

    Perhaps your homework assignment should be to get an interview with the head guy in charge of referees at US Soccer. Maybe that person can shed some light on why apparently crappy referees keep getting games.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Nice idea.....I'll see what I can do there. US Soccer revamped their system for managing referees at the start of this season . Peter Walton is the head of the organization tasked with increasing the quality of officiating in MLS and North America.

    I'll ask him if Penso is better at AYSO or rec league officiating. ;)

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Pitch Invasion actually interviewed Walton in one of their podcasts. Check out episode 6.....

  • Retarded refs gave a game-winner away to Columbus, and have seemed to do the same for DC.

  • In reply to Ufficio:

    Both DC and Columbus lucked out last night.....particularly the Crew as Mirosevic was clearly offside.

    How long does San Jose ridiculous run of late game miracles last?

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Hopefully when they lose to the Fire at Oakland Coliseum in the MLS Cup Final.

  • In reply to Doug:

    Doug, my guess is at Stanford Stadium; this year the San Jose Earthquakes played against teams like the Red Bulls and the Galaxy. That is the best facility rather than the Oakland Coliseum they barely draw fruit flies.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    That works for me as I have a good friend that lives in Palo Alto. Plus, the stadium is rectangular and so it's a better fit for soccer.

  • Alvaro Fernandez gets called by Uruguay for World Cup Qualifiers......

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