Thanks for joining me this afternoon folks, I've been Liam McMahon. Goodbye for now.
Sporting Kansas City pick up a hard-earned victory, and move up to 5th place in the Western Conference. It was a gritty performance, and they probably deserved their victory given the sheer number of chances they created. Meanwhile, Chicago stay in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. They will be hugely disappointed with the result and the refereeing decisions. Given their total dominance from the 46th to the 65th minutes, Chicago will feel they should have gotten a goal, been playing against 10 men for the final 20 minutes, not finished with only 10 players on the pitch and have had a last gasp chance for an equalizer with a penalty.
90+5' Rivero blows his whistle for the final time, and that is all she wrote at Sporting Park.
90+4' Larentowicz strode forward and was hacked down by Besler in the box. The Fire captain got a touch on that, and the ball ran out for a goal kick. Or, rather, that's what the referee decided. Looking at a replay, that looked like a clear foul from Besler and probably should have been a penalty for Chicago. That's the third huge decision from the referee which Chicago will be frustrated with.
90+3' That was probably Chicago's last chance, and it was a disappointing ball from Maloney. Larentowicz got his head to the ball, but his header sailed harmlessly over the bar.
90+2' Zusi down clutching his shoulder, and the Fire play on. Palmer hits a cross which is deflected out for a corner.
90+1 Yellow card Paulo Nagamura
90' Chicago's comeback hopes probably went out the window with that red card. Four additional minutes coming.
89' RED CARD DAVID ACCAM. He looked to have a swing at the face of Anibaba, but on second look that seems a very poor decision. Not even sure that's a foul. Accam attempting to create space after Anibaba had a clip at his ankle.
88' Jones with a great run forward and slips in Accam who is offside. Very lazy play from the forward, he was looking right across the back line.
87' Amarikwa with a great cross that Nagamura gets a glancing header on. It rebounds off Maloney and runs out for a goal kick.
86' Nemeth down clutching his head after a hard fall. Sporting have used all three subs.
85' SUBSTITUTION SPORTING KANSAS CITY JACOB PETERSON ON SONI MUSTIVAR OFF
SUBSTITUTION CHICAGO FIRE LOVEL PALMER ON ERIC GEHRIG OFF
84' Zusi penalized for a push on Jones
83' Chicago look like they're playing a 5-5 formation now as players keep losing their footing on the confetti which was shot off after that Sporting goal.
82' Accam goes on a terrific run forward but never picks out a pass and gives the ball away poorly. It rebounds to Maloney, who clips a ball out wide to Amarikwa. He can't decide whether to shoot or cross, and ends up doing a mix of both with a disappointing effort which runs out for a goal kick.
81' Zusi goes on a mazy run down the right wing, but Polster makes a great challenge to knock the ball out for a throw in.
80' Dwyer nearly slips in Zusi but his pass is just a touch overhit.
79' Amarikwa is not amused with the response of his team to the Sporting goal, and he lets them know with an expletive laced tirade which the television microphones pick up.
78' Chicago's substitution almost pays immediate dividends as Igboananike and Accam combine well before the Ghanaian has a pot shot which forces Melia into a great save.
77' SUBSTITUTION SPORTING KANSAS CITY AMADOU DIA ON SETH SINOVIC OFF
SUBSTITUTION CHICAGO FIRE KENNEDY IGBOANANIKE ON CHRIS RITTER OFF
75' GOAL SPORTING KANSAS CITY (PAULO NAGAMURA). Graham Zusi spread the play out wide right to Jalil Anibaba, who serves up a superb ball into the box right onto the head of Nagamura. The Brazilian glances a perfectly weighted header into the top corner of the far post.
74' Polster with another great interception to break up a dangerous looking attack. He's had a terrific match.
73' Gehrig with a horrible challenge on Sinovic that somehow goes unpunished.
72' SUBSTITUTION CHICAGO FIRE (QUINCY AMARIKWA ON GULY DO PRADO OFF)
71' Besler with a long throw that Do Prado again clears easily.
69' Polster with another terrific interception in the midfield, and he looks to play in Accam but the flag comes up yet again. That's seven times Chicago have been caught offside.
68' Jones goes on a great run forward and looks to switch the play, but his pass can only pick out referee Jose Carlos Rivero.
67' Feilhaber has picked up a knock, and he's clutching his ankle while grimacing.
66' Nagamura looks to pick out Sinovic with a diagonal ball, but it's a poor strike and the pass runs out for a goal kick.
65' SUBSTITUTION SPORTING KANSAS CITY (PAULO NAGAMURA ON ROGER ESPINOZA OFF)
64' Chicago have been the better side by quite some margin in this second period, but they've been unable to score.
63' The corner is a terrific one, but nothing comes of it.
62' At the other end, Sinovic gets away with a clear shirt pull, should have been his second yellow. Seconds later, Polster has a shot that is deflected out for a corner.
61' Feilhaber and Nemeth combined wonderfully there but Adailton breaks up the play with a great tackle.
60' Shocking that this match is still scoreless...
59' Shipp with a lovely little scoop pass over both Ellis and Besler. It looks certain that Do Prado will score, but Melia punches clear. Seconds later, Do Prado is in again and he looks to pass the ball inside the near post, but his finish is poor and it goes just wide of the post.
58' Chris Ritter was just issued a yellow card.
57' Sinovic is back up and play resumes.
56' Dwyer with a dreadful challenge on Ritter, and that looked a certain yellow card but nothing is given. On the other side of the field, Sinovic goes down after a tough challenge on Accam.
55' Chicago came forward like aircraft in formation and it seemed they had executed the counter to perfection. Do Prado brought the ball away, and he found Polster, who slid in Accam. The ball was played just too far in front of Accam, and Melia was able to clear the ball away from the strike 10 yards outside of his box.
54' Espinoza with a lovely reverse ball that nearly finds Dwyer. Very well read by Jones to cut that out.
53' Chicago really on the front foot here, but Polster brings that to an end after attempting to hit a long ball to switch the focus of the attack that finds no one.
52' Shipp and Accam combine wonderfully to play the Ghanaian in, but the ball is cleared for a corner which comes to nothing.
51' Larentowicz with a searching ball over the top that looked certain to pick out Accam only for Besler to make a timely interception and clear the ball out for a throw.
50' Sinovic ventured forward and had a hit from a tight angle, forcing Johnson into a terrific stop.
49' Feilhaber flicks the ball in behind the Chicago center backs for Nemeth, but he can't bring the ball under control.
48' Accam plays Maloney in and he's in 1-on-1 with Melia! He looks certain to score but the flag comes up.
47' Chicago really looking to start this second half on the front foot, I wonder what Frank Yallop said to them in the dressing toom.
46' Interesting statistic that Sporting is winless (0-2-3) this season when tied at the half. Will that continue this afternoon?
I'll be back to bring you the second half as soon it gets underway, keep following along for the latest from this match right here.
Both teams played quite well in that opening period and can reasonably feel that they should have had a couple of goals. Because of that, both will feel confident that they can go on to find a winner in the second period.
45+1' Sporting with one last attacking free kick that comes to nothing and it is half time.
45' Zusi and Anibaba stride forward and the right back whips in a dangerous ball that finds no one. One additional minute coming here.
44' Dwyer looked to be in on goal only to see the flag come up because he was well offside.
43' Nemeth looked to have won the ball off Gehrig, but he won it because of a big push in the defender's back. A foul was called as a result.
42' Accam with a hit and hope ball over the top towards Do Prado, but the flag comes up yet again for offside.
41' Polster found himself in a spot of trouble after a poor pass from Ritter, but he got out of it with a great turn.
40' Chicago have grown into this game very nicely, this has been a terrific performance from them so far.
39' Maloney goes on a mazy run down the left wing before cutting a great cross back across the box that Besler can only get a half clearance on. Shipp wins the second ball, and has a hit that slices wide.
38' Shipp looks to create some space before uncorking a shot, which is blocked by Ellis.
37' Sinovic hauls down Accam and he earns a yellow card for that. Looked the right decision.
36' This game is wide open at the moment, chances coming every other moment.
34' Chicago strides forward at the other end, and Shipp plays the ball across the face of goal to Do Prado, who forces Melia into a great save. The flag comes up for offside, but that was a great stop nonetheless.
33' Feilhaber whips in that free kick and Ellis' header comes back off the bar. So close to the opener.
32' Dwyer again causes problems and this time he's hacked down by Adailton who earns a yellow card for his troubles.
31' Oh how did Dom Dwyer miss that chance? Feilhaber made a perfect run forward and clipped a great ball into the box that found Dwyer in alone, and he could pick his spot. However, his spot was the second row of the Cauldron and his header floated harmlessly over the bar.
30' Chicago comes forward now and Shipp has a chance to whip a ball into the box, but it's well blocked.
29' On second look there, Nemeth went down very easily. Feilhaber went for a cheeky effort along the ground that Larentowicz clears.
28' Nemeth with some fantastic footwork on the edge of the box before he is hacked down by Jones. Dangerous free kick coming here...
27' Sporting stride forward dangerously but Larentowicz cuts out the attck with a terrific tackle.
26' A bit of an ebb and flow developing now as both teams search for the game's opening goal.
25' Espinoza clips a great ball over the top to Zusi, who hits a volley back through the box but Dwyer can't get on the end of it.
24' Ritter lofts a ball in behind for Do Prado to chase but the Brazilian is flagged for offside.
23' Espinoza switches the play out to Sinovic on the left wing, but his 60 yard ball is just a touch too long for the left back.
22' Feilhaber and Zusi swapped positions to great effect, and Zusi had a chance to strike from 20 yards out but his left-footed strike curled wide.
21' Polster nicks the ball away from Anibaba but his touch is too strong and the ball runs all the way to Melia.
20' Polster whistled for a soft foul on Espinoza.
19' Polster, Ritter and Maloney are really snapping at the heels of SKC every time they have the ball in the center of the park.
18' Maloney has a superb run down the left wing and earns a corner. He takes it, and Melia unconvincingly punches it clear. Ritter wins the ball back, and whips in a great cross that finds Gehrig on the back post. His header is well saved by Melia.
17' This match has evened out over the last five minutes, but Chicago are still dropping nine or ten men behind the ball when Sporting are in possession.
16' Anibaba made a great run down the right wing before cutting the ball back to Zusi near the top of the box. The midfielder turned well and uncorked a strike which was blocked by Larentowicz.
15' Adailton penalized for a poor challenge near the center circle.
14' Feilhaber makes his first run forward, and has two hits from distance. The first is blocked and the second is well wide of the mark.
13' Do Prado picks the pocket of Ellis and after a sequence of passes the Brazilian has a chance to shoot from 20 yards out. It's a superb effort and forces Melia to make a very good save.
12' Sporting dominating these early exchanges, and have created a couple of half-chances. Peter Vermes will likely be disappointed if they don't fashion a goal in these first 20 minutes.
11' A Chicago foul gave Sporting another dangerous free kick, but Zusi's ball into the box is a disappointing one.
9' SKC respond immediately and earn a corner that Do Prado clears well. Sporting win the second ball and Zusi sends in a better cross at the second time of asking. It picks out Anibaba at the back post but his header is soft, and right at Johnson.
8' Accam leads Chicago forward on a really dangerous counter and he whips in a cross that fools Melia and forces the keeper to make a diving stop to.
7' Dwyer goes on a superb run through the middle of the defense, but Larentowicz stays with him really well and makes a great tackle to send the ball out for a corner. Zusi takes and Anibaba gets his head to it but the header is well wide.
6' Dwyer has a hit from 35 yards out and he has cleared the Cauldron. A truly disappointing effort.
5' Besler fires the ball into the box, but Larentowicz clears with a superb defensive header. Seconds later, Nemeth is scythed down and here comes a dangerous attacking free kick for SKC.
4' Gehrig with a poor touch and here comes a dangerous long throw from Besler...
3' Ritter puts in a fantastic tackle on Sinovic to break up a dangerous looking SKC attack. At the other end, a poor touch from Ellis forces Melia into another difficult clearance.
2' Besler plays a hopeful ball over the top which Larentowicz deals with after fighting off Dwyer and the ball runs out for a goal kick.
1' And we are off, with Tim Melia forced to make an awkward clearance with his head immediately from the kickoff. Tough start for SKC's second choice keeper.
This afternoon Sporting are debuting their new white and silver third kit, and it looks quite good thus far. Meanwhile, Chicago are wearing their normal blue and red kit.
Lovely tifo presented by the Cauldron, telling the players to "Ignite the Blue Hell". One of the best supporter's groups in MLS will undoubtedly make themselves heard today as they always do.
The teams are on the touchline for the national anthem and handshakes, but that should be the last time they're friendly with each other for the next 90 minutes. Here we go.
We can confirm for you that there is a sizable contingent of traveling Chicago Fire fans in the crowd at Sporting Park and a sizable crowd is expected for the sole meeting of the season between these two rivals. The players are in the tunnel, and we are about to get underway.
We're just moments away from the start of this afternoon's match, and I can't wait to bring it to you. So, sit back and enjoy this rivalry game...
Keys to the game:
For Chicago: Keep your shape defensively. Sporting's 4-3-3 formation is designed to dominate possession, and at home they will expect to comfortably win the possession battle. However, it is all about what you do with your possession. If Chicago defends smartly and keeps their shape, they have every chance to find a goal or two off a set piece or a counter attack.
For Sporting: Put Chicago to the sword. SKC are used to dominating possession, and at home will expect nothing less than for that to continue. Chicago are lining up in a defensive 4-4-1-1 formation, which makes this writer think they'll be looking to counter attack. They'll sit deep, concede the middle third of the field and look to capitalize on the speed of David Accam and the creativity of Shaun Maloney and Harry Shipp on the counter attack. With the lion's share of the possession, Sporting will create scoring chances. They must take them.
Let's take a second to remind ourselves of the implications of this afternoon's match-up. A Sporting Kansas City victory will take them up to 5th place at least, and depending on how much they win by they could rise all of the way up to 3rd place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, a Chicago victory would take the Fire up to 4th place in the Eastern Conference. A draw would leve Chicago in 5th in the East while it would take Sporting up to 5th in the West.
Sporting Kansas City starting XI: Melia, Sinovic, Besler (C), Ellis, Anibaba, Espinoza, Mustivar, Feilhaber, Nemeth, Dwyer, Zusi
Chicago Fire starting XI: Johnson, Gehrig, Larentowicz (C), Adailton, Jones, Shipp, Polster, Ritter, Accam, Maloney, Guly do Prado
Once again, hello and welcome to VAVEL USA's LIVE coverage of this afternoon's fixture. We are just over half an hour away from the start of television coverage now.
2015 MLS Scores LIVE
While Chicago enter this match on the back of three straight victories, Sporting enter this match after playing one of the best matches in MLS history last weekend when they came back from two goals down in the game's final few minutes to draw 4-4 with the Houston Dynamo. Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber scored Kansas City's last two goals of the evening, the first from the penalty spot and the second from a wonder strike which earned him MLS Goal of the Week honors.
In addition to the sterling play which the Fire have gotten recently from Accam, they have also received several strong performances from rookie holding midfielder Matt Polster. Polster was superb last weekend against New York City FC, breaking up the play all over the pitch and circulating possession. He also showed off his long-shooting ability, and Polster was unlucky not to score a goal against the Cityzens. He has been so impressive this season that Chicago Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss, a former USMNT international, has compared the Illinois University-Edwardsville product to former USMNT star John Harkes. Bliss said: “He’s gifted athletically; he’s got an engine,” Bliss said of the versatile Polster, who has been used effectively as a defensive midfielder but can also play at the back. “He reminds me of, and I don’t want to oversell the kid, but talking about the engine, the motor, he’s very similar to a John Harkes. I played with John Harkes for six, seven, eight years with the national team, and Matt reminds me a little bit of John in terms of the way he gets around the field. From the minute the whistle blows to the minute it ends he’s on it, he’s got his foot on the gas and he doesn’t let up.”
Sporting Kansas City - Chicago Fire LIVE
Chicago's recent winning streak can be pinpointed to the role of one man: David Accam. The Ghanaian striker has played in Chicago's last three matches after recovering from a hamstring injury, and his ability to stretch defenses to their limits has been critical for the Fire. While Accam has not shown off his finishing talents to their full extent yet, he has one goal from just 11 shots, his speed has given center backs fits. There are very few center backs in the world who can comfortably deal with balls played in behind them, and Accam has the ability to beat nearly any center back in the league for pace.
As referenced earlier, both sides will likely be using today's match as a measuring stick. Sporting have played eight matches this season, picking up 10 points, good enough for just 7th place in the Western Conference. Juxtaposing the relative qualities of the Eastern and Western Conferences, were Sporting still in the East they would sit in 5th place, one point ahead of Chicago. Speaking of the Fire, they sit in 6th place in the East with nine points from just six matches. Due to the Montreal Impact's trip to the CONCACAF Champions League Final and MLS's subsequent changing of the fixture list, Chicago have played fewer league matches than anyone but the Impact. The Fire underwent a massive rebuilding job during the offseason, signing three new Designated Players and a number of other squad players. It has taken the new players a bit of time to gel, as seen with Chicago losing its first three matches of the year, but they've since seen everything fall in to place and have won their last three matches.
LIVE 2015 MLS Regular Season
This match-up is an interesting one, not just because it is an interesting indicator of what each team may be able to do this season. Yes, the newest member of the Western Conference is attempting to return to the heights they hit two years ago when they were MLS Cup Champions and they are looking to reestablish themselves as an instant contender. And yes, the Chicago Fire have undergone a massive rebuilding job and are going to be using this afternoon's match as a measuring stick to try and figure out just how far they can go this season. However, one thing which is often lost about this fixture is that Sporting view the Fire as one of their fiercest rivals while Chicago often look past Sporting. Chicago have deep ties with the Columbus Crew, the New England Revolution and FC Dallas. The rivalry with Sporting has developed far more recently, but in particular due to the passion generated by Kansas City's Cauldron, it has blossomed into an exciting rivalry match-up.
Hello and welcome to VAVEL USA's LIVE coverage of the Chicago Fire's trip to Sporting Park to do battle with Sporting Kansas City. My name is Liam McMahon, and it is my genuine pleasure to be taking you through this match between Eastern Conference foes. So, sit back, relax and enjoy this 2015 Major League Soccer showdown...