Sporting Kansas City 0-1 Chicago Fire: A remarkable road trip

Jun 24, 2023; Kansas City, Kansas, USA; Chicago Fire forward Kei Kamara (23) and Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas (3) fight for the ball during the first half at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2023; Kansas City, Kansas, USA; Chicago Fire forward Kei Kamara (23) and Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas (3) fight for the ball during the first half at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Fire shocked the MLS world on Saturday night by picking up their second straight road win, defeating Sporting Kansas City 1-0 at Children’s Mercy Park.

A pretty tight affair, the only goal came at the start of the second half when Fabian Herbers capitalized on a rebound in the area. That was enough for Chicago, who held on to secure the clean sheet and all three points away from home.

What happened

Chicago had the first chance of the contest pretty early on. A low cross found Kei Kamara in space, but he made a mess of the finish, mishiting the ball well over the crossbar.

Kansas City took a while to respond, but they finally did at the half midway point of the half. Alan Pulido went for a curler from the edge of the area, and his strike looked good, but Chris Brady managed to make an impressive save.

They had another opportunity later on when Dániel Sallói got the ball in the box. He couldn’t get past Arnaud Souquet, though, and the two battled until the ball was eventually picked up by the keeper.

Things kept on rolling, and it was the Fire’s turn to do something in the final third. A cut back picked out the run of Jairo Torres, but his first-time effort was hit right at Kendall McIntosh, which led to a simple save.

There was one more opening before the break. Brian Gutiérrez did well to cut inside on the ball, and he drilled a low shot towards goal. However, his attempt rolled just wide of the target.

Chicago carried that momentum into the second half, jumping out in front after mere minutes. A rebound fell perfectly to Fabian Herbers, and he made the most of the break, burying a shot into the back of the net.

That woke up Sporting, who started to really send numbers forward. Gadi Kinda tried his luck from distance, and he even forced a save out of Brady.

However, they failed to do much with the ball. Their next chance didn’t come until the 85th when Marinos Tzionis unleashed a long-range strike. It was too central, though, which allowed Brady to block the ball away.

That proved to be the last real highlight of the contest, which meant that Chicago came away with all three points.

What it means

This was a disappointing night for Kansas City. They had been better as of late, especially after their horrid start to the campaign, but losing this game has pegged them back a bit. You can’t lose to a team that is as historically bad on the road as the Fire have been, even if they just won in Portland. It’s not the end of the world for Sporting, but they’ll have to be much better in their next match.

Chicago, meanwhile, will be dancing in the street following this result. Everyone knows how much they usually struggle on the road, so them winning two-straight away games will be seen as a minor miracle. These victories have shown how much fighting spirit this team has, and when they put it together, can they really be a threat to most teams in MLS.

Notes and observations

There’s a lot of good names in MLS, and Walter is certainly one of them.

Kei Kamara getting hit in the nuts with the ball was funny.

Jairo Torres does need to improve in the final third, but his recent showings are promising. He’s actually having an impact on games, and he’s gotten involved in the attack. There’s room for more growth, but at least there’s some momentum behind him now.

This was not good enough from Kansas City. There was never a point in the contest where they really challenged the opposing backline. Their passes were either too safe or misplaced. They needed to find a different gear, but they couldn’t on the night despite their superb support.

I don’t even know how Chicago has done this. It feels like they simply showed up and took care of business, clinching two major away wins in the process. That’s not what people expect of the Fire, and for good reason. Now they have to build on this, and fortunately for them they’ve got an extended homestand ahead of them.

Is Chicago better with Xherdan Shaqiri? While it still feels like the answer is no, it is interesting that they’ve won both games without him starting. Then the question turns to whether he should start next weekend when he’s fully fit again. He will, but hopefully there’s some internal debate.

Man of the match – Fabian Herbers

Shoutout to Fabian Herbers.

He’s not the biggest name, and he’s certainly not the most popular player on the team, but that doesn’t matter to him. The German just keeps plugging away, no matter where he’s played or his role in the squad. He’s a true professional.

Herbers’ work was rewarded on this night, as a rebound fell right to his feet. He still had to finish off the move, but of course he did that with little issue, redirecting the ball into the back of the net. His impact went beyond that moment, as he helped his side stay solid at the back and smart in possession.

The FIre are lucky to have him.