Fire-Sporting Kansas City Preview

BY foxsports • March 15, 2013

After a pair of sluggish first halves on the road, Sporting Kansas City hopes to put together a more complete performance in its home opener.

The Chicago Fire are simply trying to avoid the worst start in team history.

Sporting KC looks to improve to 10-1-3 in the franchise's home openers since 2000 on Saturday when it takes on a Chicago club still without a goal this season.

Even though it managed a split at Philadelphia and Toronto FC, Kansas City (1-1-0) trailed early in both matches, a fact that hasn't sat well with coach Peter Vermes.

Sporting KC rallied past the Union 3-1 on March 2, but couldn't recover after falling behind by two in the 21st minute last Saturday in Toronto, losing 2-1.

"In the first half of both games, our movement and aggressiveness to go forward when we had the ball was not solid enough," Vermes said. "In the second half, we've come out with a different determination. We need to do that for 90 minutes."

Sporting KC has outscored opponents 3-0 after halftime, with newcomer Claudio Bieler providing two of those goals.

Now Kansas City will try to start fast in front of its home fans. The club outscored visitors 23-12 overall on the way to an 11-3-4 home record in 2012.

Chicago extended its unbeaten streak at Kansas City to six games with a 1-0 victory June 29, but that run came to an end with a 2-0 defeat Sept. 28 as Graham Zusi scored twice. Fire coach Frank Klopas and defender Gonzalo Segares were both ejected late in the loss.

Sporting KC may only need one goal to beat the Fire (0-2-0) this time.

Chicago will try to produce some effective play in the offensive third following a 4-0 defeat at Los Angeles on March 3 and a 1-0 loss to New England in the Fire's home opener last Saturday.

The Fire have never started 0-3-0 in their 16-year history.

"We've definitely improved a lot from the first game, but we're still disappointed," Segares said. "We have to stay motivated and improve every day in practice."

Chicago put four shots on goal against the Revolution after Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini only needed to make one save.

"We've got to put our chances away. I thought in the first half (last weekend) we had some good looks," Klopas told the official MLS website. "It's difficult when you create the opportunities but don't put them away."

Sporting KC goalie Jimmy Nielsen has allowed three goals in two matches this year after posting a league-high 15 shutouts in the 2012 regular season. He has three shutouts in his last six starts against the Fire.

Chicago will be short-handed defensively, with Steven Kinney out with a quad strain and Arne Friedrich still dealing with a hamstring problem.

Midfielder and captain Logan Pause is likely to remain out with a quad injury.