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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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Winston Reid header propels Sportingto 1-0 win over Chicago Fire FC

Winston Reid’s 67th-minute header propelled Sporting Kansas City (8-5-2, 26 points) to a 1-0 victory over Chicago Fire FC (4-8-4, 16 points) on Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

The veteran center back’s first MLS goal, paired with a second-minute penalty save from goalkeeper Tim Melia, helped Sporting vault to second place in the provisional Western Conference standings and gave the club its 250th all-time home win in all competitions. Manager Peter Vermes’ men have now won four straight meetings against the Fire, who are winless in their last eight trips to Children’s Mercy Park dating back to 2012.

Two changes adorned the Sporting Kansas City lineup from Saturday’s 2-1 road win versus the Houston Dynamo. Returning from a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, Gadi Kinda was notably deployed as the center forward in Sporting’s three-man attack, while veteran Roger Espinoza replaced Felipe Hernandez in the midfield for his first start since Aug. 29 after missing the month of September through injury. Striker Alan Pulido, who bagged both goals in Houston, missed out Wednesday due to national team commitments with Mexico.

The game’s first flashbulb moment came within 30 seconds of kickoff, when Fabian Herbers won Chicago a penalty kick following a costly Sporting giveaway in the defensive third. Robert Beric stepped to the spot for the Fire, having scored in each of his last five appearances, but Melia dove right to cast aside the forward’s attempt and improve upon his brilliant penalty-saving resumé. Melia has stopped four of the last five penalties he has faced in MLS action and has 11 total regular-season penalty saves since 2016, six more than any other goalkeeper during that time.

Sporting responded positively after the early scare and carved out their first opening in the 18th minute as Gianluca Busio-making his 50th career appearance for the club in all competitions-received a pass from Kinda and curled marginally wide from the edge of the box. Right back Graham Zusi was injured on the play’s buildup, suffering the brunt of a rash Francisco Calvo sliding challenge, and 20-year-old Academy product Jaylin Lindsey was summoned in his place.

Johnny Russell was next to ask questions of the Chicago backline in the 28th minute, gathering possession off a deflected Espinoza strike and cutting past a defender before hammering low through traffic. His shot was destined for the far left corner, but Fire midfielder Alvaro Medran was stationed near the goal line to make the clearance. Calvo then produced a vital block of his own seven minutes later, putting his head in front of a well-hit curler from Khiry Shelton that was bound for the top shelf.

Chicago and Sporting traded a flurry of opportunities on the cusp of intermission. Herbers snapped an open header wide of target off Boris Sekulic’s cross, Busio narrowly missed the mark after cutting centrally from the left side, and the Fire’s Djordje Mihailovic saw his chip shot carom back off the woodwork after the hosts committed another turnover in a dangerous position.

The second half delivered fewer clear-cut scoring chances, but the decisive breakthrough would come with 67 minutes on the clock. Russell whipped a tantalizing free kick into a crowded penalty area, where Reid shrugged off Brandt Bronico and nodded the ball powerfully off the left post and into the net past helpless Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

Reid’s game-winner was his first goal in a Sporting uniform since joining the club ahead of the 2020 campaign and gave Russell his 27th career assist for the team in all competitions. It also extended Sporting’s team-record scoring streak to open an MLS campaign, as the club has found the back of the net in all 15 regular season matches this year and remains the only side yet to be shut out.

A resolute defensive display prevented Chicago from finding any legitimate look at an equalizer, with Reid notably becoming the first Sporting player since 2015 to notch a goal and record seven interceptions in an MLS match.

With a second successive triumph under their belts, Sporting will look to continue their winning ways Sunday when expansion club Nashville SC (4-5-6, 18 points) makes an inaugural visit to Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at SeatGeek.com and live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.

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