In a very physical match that ended up with six players earning yellow cards, Chicago's "Park the Bus" defensive tactic worked in their favor as they earned a 0-0 draw in the Sporting Park 2013 home opener.
Jalil Anibaba was the star on the back line for Chicago in the first half as he shut down many Sporting KC chances in the box. And many chances there were for Sporting, given that they held 72.8% possession and attempted 20 shots on the game, seven being shots on goal.
Kansas City had a chance to go ahead early after Sean Johnson saved a thunderous shot by Mechack Jerome just outside of the box in the 13th minute. Jerome, who made his MLS debut subbing for the injured Chance Myers, played well in replacement, creating chances with some nice passes on the side and playing his part defensively as well. Johnson was also solid for the fire, making any saves that his defense allowed through the box.
The first yellow card wasn't picked up until the 41st minute, when Dan Paladini was shown a caution for a wayward tackle on Matt Besler near midfield. Sporting KC had some chances late in the first half, but were not able to put anything in the net, going into half tied at zero.
In the second half, three other members of the Fire picked up cautions as Gonzalo Segares, Macion Santos and Chris Rolfe were all shown yellows. Santos' card was for time wasting, the other two were for bad fouls. Seth Sinovic and Oriol Rosell picked up cards for Sporting, both for bad fouls.
Soony Saad came on in the second half for Benny Feilhaber, trying to give Sporting the goal they had been looking for all game. He had one of the best chances of the game in the 76th minute as his shot missed barely to the left of goal. Graham Zusi would also have a shot in the 86th minute as his shot in the box went just high over the goal. Even with an extended six minute extra time period, Sporting was not able to find the back of the net and settled for a draw, their first clean sheet of the season.
Overall the midfield looked split on it's performance. Graham Zusi had some wayward passes and poor free kicks not typical of the national team call-up, whereas Rosell and Feilhaber played some of the best marches thay have all season, creating some great chances in the offensive third and even putting in some shots of their own.
In the press conference after the game, Peter Vermes praised Feilhaber and his work both offensively and defensively. Vermes also praised his team's overall effort, saying that this was the first game they've played well the entire 90 minutes.
"We've played two games where we've had 90 minutes of great play and 90 minutes of subpar," he said. "This to me was a very good performance other than the fact that we didn't get the goal."
Vermes also had no qualms about Chicago's defensive strategy that held the match to a scoreless draw.
"It's a tactic, you can't fault them for doing it," he said. "Obviously that's not our style, I think you're playing with fire (no pun intended) and at some point you'll give something up."
Chicago picked up it's first point of the season, while Sporting improved to four points in 2013. The Fire have yet to score a goal in their 2013 campaign.
Sporting returns to the road next week as they travel to New England to take on the Revolution Saturday at 3 pm.