This match seemed destined for yet another draw before Sporting Kansas City struck twice in the last ten minutes to hand the Fire their ninth defeat of the season. During this odd record-breaking trek, the Fire's 18 deadlocks easily surpasses the total of the next closest club in terms of ties (Vancouver has 13) but the nine losses are tied with DC United and New York for the fewest defeats in the Eastern Conference. The problem with that is that the meager victory total of 5 is lowest in the league. That amount is especially embarrassing considering that lame duck Chivas USA has won 8 games this season.
"As we have a lot of games this year, with our ties, we’re in every game. And it’s proved again tonight: we were right there, toe to toe and we didn’t quite get it done,” said Frank Yallop after the match. “I don’t want to make excuses—I never do—but there weren’t a lot of options to change things when I came here at the beginning of the season. But now I’ve seen the team for a year and I think we’ve coached them to their potential. It’s not quite good enough to win games, so we just need to add some quality in the right areas and I think we’ll be decent. I’m excited about the prospects of that.”
Yallop will seem to have those options available this offseason with approximately two-thirds of the roster either out of contract or in option years. The changes necessary won't be as simple as adding a player or two because quality is needed is needed in vital positions (striker, central playmaker, central defense) but the first order of business is getting through the last two games to end a frustrating 2014 season.
That end can't come soon enough.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - How many times this season have you have you heard someone utter, "If not for Sean Johnson the score would have been worse"? This was another of those occasions. The game remained tied at 0-0 until the 80th minute with Johnson getting enough of Feilhaber's shot in the 30th to deflect it at the post and back to him. That was the best out of his six saves on the night. There was one shaky moment in the 75th on a missed clearance however.
D Alex (5) - Played a decent game at left back, starting the sequence that led to the Fire's best chance on the night in the 22nd. Passable defensively in this match.
D Bakary Soumare (5) - No big errors and a few close tackles and blocks but Sporting had a lot of time on the ball with space with which to operate.
D Jeff Larentowicz (5) - Fire defenders didn't exactly close down the KC attack despite the scoreless first 80 minutes. Sporting had a lot of time on the ball and a decent amount of looks.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - Whistled for a foul in the box in the 12th minute but it may have been a phantom foul against Feilhaber. Luckily, Dwyer missed the net altogether in his PK attempt. Dwyer did beat him late for his header and KC's second goal.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Has shown flashes of getting back to form but not enough of them and not for prolonged periods yet. Nyarko mentioned at half-time that he's probably at about 80%. A good cross in the 14th was pushed wide by Amarikwa and a pass in the 22nd set up another good chance for Sinama-Pongolle.
M Matt Watson (5) - His shot in the 22nd forced Gruenebaum into a spectacular save. Decent in combination getting forward in the first half but KC had a 58-42 possession advantage overall.
M Logan Pause (5) - As pointed out during the broadcast, the Pause/Watson duo tends to sit back too far in front of the defenders and lopsided possession numbers are the result. Zusi's goal was well taken but he had plenty of time to take a touch and move forward before unleashing.
M Harry Shipp (4) - Took five corner kicks but his service isn't nearly as good as it was in the beginning of the season. Still disappears for long stretches. Had a good look on goal in the 2nd minute but waited too long to make a decision and was dispossessed. He was rarely heard from after that.
F Florent Sinama-Pongolle (4) - Had a shot on goal in the 22nd that was saved by Gruenebaum. Other than a shot that was struck wide in the 55th that was it from him. One would expect a bit more given his resume.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - Intercepted a pass in the 34th and created a chance but his weak shot was saved in a situation where a pass may have been a better decision. His effort and engine are admirable but the Fire will need a considerable upgrade at this position in 2015.
M Sanna Nyassi (5) - Replaced Nyarko in the 69th minute. Best moment came in the 83rd when his volley was struck just over the bar.
M Grant Ward (5) - Subbed in for Shipp in the 83rd. Didn't factor into much.
F Matt Fondy (4) - Entered the match for Alex in the 88th. Had a chance to tie the game when a headed ball fell to his feet in front of goal. His attempt was pushed directly at Gruenebaum starting the counter attack that led to Sporting's second score.
A trip to the nation's capitol next Saturday to face conference leaders DC United.
- Sean Johnson has joined the USMNT camp ahead of a friendly against Honduras on Tuesday.
- Robert Earnshaw and Razvan Cocis are still out with injuries.
- Should the Fire earn one more draw they will be the first team in MLS history to have earned more points from draws than victories during the course of one season.