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Fire Sun Jun 12 2011

Fire Disappoints With Another Scoreless Draw

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The Chicago Fire were on the road Thursday night in Kansas City as Sporting KC played their first game in their new stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park, drawing the Fire 0-0. Despite an active, end-to-end game, the only chance that found the back of the net was an offsides finish by Kansas City's Graham Zusi. Chicago's best chance came late, as Sporting's substitute goalkeeper Eric Kronberg spilled a shot that Orr Barouch rattled off the crossbar.

The team formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards have undergone a total overhaul, changing the team name, badge and colors, capping it all off with a brand new, $200 million soccer-specific stadium. It wasn't completed in time for the start of this MLS season, however, and they've started the season with MLS' longest-ever road trip, playing their first 10 games away from home.

This is a big reason why they're now 1-6-4, right in the bottom of the conference alongside Chicago's 1-4-8 record. But they're a young team, with a few young college stars and a striker in Teal Bunbury who has the U.S. National Team in his sights, and who has in fact been good enough to get a few looks from U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. Ten games on the road is hard, and their youth should provide a few valid excuses for why head coach Peter Vermes' team is one of the league's worst.

But Chicago's Frank Klopas, in only his second game as interim head coach, is surely starting to search ever harder for a way to turn his team around. Their only win this year came against this similarly weak Sporting KC squad in Toyota Park, and being unable to score yet again despite having a man advantage for 30 minutes does not reflect positively on his team's offensive ability.

In the 67th minute, Kansas City starting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen used his hands outside the 18-yard box on a long ball meant for Dominic Oduro (whose speed was on full display, one of the few obvious weapons Chicago brought to the pitch). Rushing out to try and beat Oduro to the ball, Nielsen simply reacted as a goalkeeper would when the Fire winger got first touch and tried to float it past the onrushing keeper. But as the last man back, he was sent off with a straight red card, forcing the backup to enter the game in place of Bunbury.

It's true that Kansas City was pumped up for this game, and holding the hosts to a shutout is again a great defensive improvement upon their previous games. If both teams had played 11v11 for 90 minutes (and an unheard-of *nine* minutes of stoppage time!), perhaps it would be enough to feel good about. But playing a man up, with a backup goalkeeper that was sent in cold and unexpectedly, you would hope Chicago could find a way to manufacture the win.

Alas, it wasn't to be, and now Klopas must turn his attention from the back line to his attack as the Fire head to Columbus, Ohio, for Sunday's matchup against the much better Crew, currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference.

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