Dominating play, Sporting KC win nail-bitter over Chicago Fire

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Sporting KC win
KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 06: Sporting Kansas City midfielder Yohan Croizet (10) is congratulated by teammates after a goal in the first half of an MLS match between the Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City on July 6, 2019 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kansas City, Kan. — Sporting KC win a nail-bitter despite dominating in nearly every important stat against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park, the home team could only squeeze out a tight 1-0 victory. Outshooting Chicago 17-6, Sporting KC’s sole goal came from the foot of Yohan Croizet in the 14th minute.

Sporting KC win, only score one goal despite dominating

It looked like Sporting KC was set for a barrage of goals against the Chicago Fire when Yohan Croizet opened the scoring just 14 minutes in. Stealing the ball in midfield, Felipe Gutierrez caught Chicago in its build-up shape as it played out the back.

With center backs Francisco Calvo and Bastian Schweinsteiger playing wider, Gutierrez slipped the ball through to an already charging Croizet. Beating the 34-year-old Schweinsteiger for pace, Croizet slotted the ball past goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm from distance after Kronholm was caught in no-mans-land.

“Firstly Yohan had the recognition to take off, but second is (Gutierrez) looked to play that ball up the middle of the park and the weight of the pass was perfect,” Peter Vermes said. “I was surprised (Croizet) hit it from the distance he did, but obviously, he saw something much different than I did, thank god he did.”

Kansas City continued in a dominating fashion, not allowing Chicago it’s first shot until the 32nd minute. On the offensive end, Sporting created chance after chance but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. Partly it was because of Kronholm’s heroic efforts, but partly because Sporting just couldn’t buy a goal.

“We had unbelievable chances that we created and we could have scored many goals (against LAFC). Tonight is a little bit like that as well, the difference is we scored and we defended and we didn’t give anything away and kept our concentration. That’s who Sporting Kansas City is.”

Building Salloi’s confidence

Once deemed one of Sporting KC’s most exciting young talents — and he still has the potential to do so — Daniel Salloi has struggled this season. He’s failed to register a goal since the start of the season, and Saturday night offered a plethora of chances to change that.

In the first play of the second half, Salloi beat Kronholm but had his effort cleared off the line. Soon after, he had a first-time volley from close range sail wide. Intermittently throughout the half, he also had chances to pull the trigger at goal but refused to do so.

“I think he’s playing well and he’s getting into great spots. He’s getting a little unlucky on a couple of his actions, they’re right there,” Vermes said. “Their defender did a good job to recover on the one that was going right in the back of the net, clears it off the line. He keeps getting in the right spots, he just needs to breakthrough.”

Salloi replied to his manager’s words of confidence soon after the Sporting KC win.

“It means a lot. You can not play this game without confidence. Confidence for me is number one and from your coach… the first step is putting you on the field,” Salloi said. “And after that, it’s just things like he comes to me after a game and tells me ‘you played well and it’s coming.’”.

Building on this victory

Salloi isn’t the only one struggling this term, and he put his team’s thoughts into words following Saturday’s dominating victory.

“I don’t think anything is lost,” Salloi said. “Obviously, we’re not going to be first, but we’re can make a good run and be in the playoff spot.”

“There are games where we play amazing, and there are games when they just run through us – and that didn’t happen last year, or the year before, or any years at Sporting,” he continued. “So this is why this is a difficult year and very different. But we catch a good run – like even winning three games in a row, lose one – that’s going to put us in a playoff spot. This league is insane, anyone can beat anyone.”

Return of Russell

Perhaps the largest cheer of the night didn’t come from the goal, but from the return of Johnny Russell to Children’s Mercy Park. The Scot made his first appearance since May 29 after being absent through international duty and injury. He replaced Salloi in the 73rd minute.

Russell didn’t make any huge waves, but he could have picked up an assist on his first involvement. Picking up the ball on the left flank, he drew in a Chicago defender before laying the ball off to Gutierrez who could only shoot wide.

It was a short involvement for Russell, but a big step in Sporting KC getting back its talisman goalscorer.

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