It wasn't pretty but the Fire managed to overcome an overwhelming Sporting Kansas City advantage in the stat line to cling to a 0-0 draw and earn their first point of the 2013 season. Frank Klopas' game plan was defensive and cautious and it worked well enough to get a result in a difficult place to play. With injuries along the back line and a sputtering offense after two matches Klopas chose to sit center midfielder Joel Lindpere and replaced him with the more defensively capable Daniel Paladini.
The Fire sat backed and absorbed pressure in hopes of catching a counter attack chance, a game plan that has worked in Kansas City in the past but that chance never really materialized. The tactic resulted in some ugly numbers - Shots 20-7, corner kicks 7-1, passing accuracy 82% to 59%, and possession 73-27. Those numbers are usually good enough to get you beat but Sporting has struggled a bit early on themselves. They're not as dynamic as they were last season without Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara making them very predictable as everything they do offensively goes through Graham Zusi. The Fire did well to limit him by making him work for his touches and he rarely found himself in a threatening spot.
Games like these aren't pretty or necessarily fun to watch but today it was effective. Or at least effective enough to earn a point on the road, which is what most clubs shoot for when playing away from home. The Fire will gladly take the point but the continuing lack of creativity and stumbling in the final third will need to be addressed quickly.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Called on to make only three saves with his best being a 54th minute stop on Nagamura's long distance blast. Strong in the air and solid throughout the day. Another solid effort from Johnson as he vies for the third goalkeeper spot on the USMNT.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - A good effort for the entire back line considering the amount of possession Kansas City enjoyed. Very good positioning and focus throughout the entire match. Segares did well on the left considering most of Zusi's crosses come from that side and he was limited.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Very good at centerback for most of the day although he may have gotten away with a handball after a failed clearance bounced up into his arm in the 35th.
D Austin Berry (6) - He and Anibaba did well to lock down Bieler throughout the game and did not allow any clear looks for SKC attackers. There was no lapse such as the one that resulted in the NE goal last week. Several clearances down the stretch as Kansas City pushed and the Fire clinged to a point.
D Mike Videira (6) - Did very well at right back considering he hasn't played all season and the position is not his natural spot. Sinovic broke through on the right side on a couple of occasions but that was it for that side of the field.
M Dilly Duka (4) - Connecting on passes has been a problem so far in his first three games in red. Subbed out in the 59th.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - Started in place of Lindpere as Klopas opted for a defensive formation and did reasonably well at what he was asked to do, which was basically stay back and defend. Had one opportunity in the 90th minute to get a good look on goal but his first touch failed him and Nielsen collected the ball before a shot could be taken. Added some bite but Kansas City's midfield ran over the Fire's.
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - The Fire midfield did well to limit Zusi in terms of dangerous chances but possession was 73-27 in favor of the home team. Sporting attempted 609 passes to the Fire's 220. It's hard to say anyone in the Fire's midfield was anything better than just okay when numbers are that lopsided.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Klopas needs to find a way to get him more involved going forward. He did manage to find room on one or two occasions only to have teammates squander the chance with a bad decision, bad touch, or bad secondary pass.
F Chris Rolfe (5) - Had the Fire's best chance in the 11th minute when his shot rolled just wide of the right post after beating Nielsen. A nice move or two late was wasted as the Fire have no one reliable ahead of him.
F Sherjill MacDonald (4) - He was better than he has been in the first two games of the season and he was still not good. Teams will continue to shut down the Fire attack by boxing in Rolfe and muscling Nyarko until one of the forwards on this roster finds some form or until the club brings in a capable target man.
F Maicon Santos (4) - Subbed in for MacDonald in the 67th and wasn't much better. Managed to botch a 3v2 counter attack in the 89th by somehow maneuvering himself into an offside position.
M Alex (5) - Came into the match in the 59th for Duka but failed to make a meaningful impact.
D Wells Thompson (5) - Replaced Videira in the 83rd when the replacement right back limped off with an apparent injury.
- The striker position is a problem. This is no surprise but Maicon Santos does not appear to be the answer for a struggling Sherjill MacDonald. This will be a recurring theme.
- Joel Lindpere did not play and will miss the next match away on National Team duty. Paladini played admirably in his place but the Fire will not someone with creative ability to assume this role with the forwards struggling.
- Mike Videira left the game with an apparent injury to further thin the depth along the back line.
- Gaining a point is a step in the right direction but the Fire can't afford to drop anything to Chivas USA next Sunday at Toyota Park.