After having failed to earn a point in New England on Saturday, the Fire returned home in dire need of a full three points. Aiming to defend the home pitch, the Fire would face a worthy adversary in first place Sporting Kansas City. The road side was an impressive 5-4-3 on the road coming into play, a record that may not be eye-popping, but impressive nonetheless given the usual dominance by home teams in the league.
With both head coach Frank Klopas and defender Bakary Soumare each suspended after incidents during and following the 2-0 loss in New England, Hunter Jumper earned a rare start, and it would ultimately work strongly in the Fire’s favor. In a play that began with a Jalil Anibaba throw-in, Anibaba got the ball back and put the ball wide of the net. Mike Magee got to the ball before it went out of play, sliding in for the touch right to Jumper, who would dive down for the low header, beating Jimmy Nielsen. The goal was the first of 2012 second round draft pick’s young career, and gave the team an early thirteenth minute lead.
It [scoring the goal] hasn’t really sunk in yet… I think I got my nerves a little up because I still so excited so next time I touched the ball I was still like ‘Oh my God!’… It made the game a little easier because we could play back a little more… Obviously, we got the result, so we’re happy. – Hunter Jumper on first goal of MLS career.
The Fire were seemingly not content with just one goal, leading a fierce attack for several minutes following Jumper’s goal, and went into half time with a one-goal lead. Sporting held an unimpressive record of 0-2-1 when trailing at half time, and though the road side saw more opportunities in the second half, the Fire contributed to keep them without a win in such a scenario.
The Fire saw their best chance of the second half when the ball bounced over the head of Aurelian Collin. Rolfe would beat Collin physically and reached the ball first, starting a breakaway from the middle of the pitch. Rolfe would beat Nielsen, but unfortunately sent the ball just wide, as Sporting caught a break and remained down just one goal. The Fire would again come close in the seventy-second minute when Juan Luis Anangono turned and volleyed a blast that hit the crossbar near Nielsen’s left pipe, just inches away from a stunning upper-ninety goal.
Sporting would get its share of scoring chances late in the match, but the Fire were able to cling on to their lead, and Jumper’s first career goal proved to be the game winner.
Patrick Nyarko returned to the lineup in the sixty-fifth minute, after having missed two straight matches with a head injury. Designated player Juan Luis Anangono sat in favor of Rolfe to start the match, but came in four minutes after Nyarko and impressed, especially with the shot that hit the crossbar. Fellow designated player Arevalo Rios quietly put together a strong performance from the defensive midfield position, as the defense did their part, holding Sporting to just four shots on goal, three of which came in the second half but were answered handily by Johnson.
The Fire stay at home to host the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park on September 1st. Dependent on the result of the upcoming match between Houston and the Montreal Impact on Saturday, the match could become a battle for fifth place, giving the Fire an opportunity to finally break through into a playoff spot.