Bridgeview, IL – Sporting Kansas City was once the toast of Major League Soccer in 2012, but it will be hoping to regain its sublime vein of form Saturday when it heads to Toyota Park to face the Chicago Fire.
Sporting looked likely to cruise to an Eastern Conference title after a perfect 7-0-0 start, but two straight losses leave the club just two points better than second-place Red Bull New York.
Sporting has failed to score in its last two outings, falling 1-0 to the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field before getting shocked with a 2-0 loss to the expansion Montreal Impact at Livestrong Sporting Park last weekend.
"I think we got outfought [Saturday night], and I can honestly say that it's the first time that this team, our team, that it's happened to us this year," midfielder Graham Zusi said after the loss to Montreal. "I can pretty much promise you that it won't happen again."
Defender Seth Sinovic missed Sporting's last match, failing to start for the first time since May 28, 2011. He could return to the squad Saturday, but head coach Peter Vermes may have his reservations about that after watching Sinovic's replacement, Michael Harrington, perform against Montreal.
"His possession was very good," Vermes said of Harrington. "His entry ball out of the back was really good. ... He made good decisions in where he played the ball. I thought defensively he was locked in, didn't really give anything away. All of that was good stuff."
Chicago has enjoyed a consistent season to this point, posting a 3-2-3 record to put the club fourth in the East.
The Fire are coming off of an impressive last-gasp win at Chivas USA before playing to a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake at home.
"The team won on the road and I didn't want to change anything," head coach Frank Klopas said of his team selection for the draw with Real Salt lake. "I think that positional players are a little different than goalkeepers. The team played well and I didn't want to change anything. I've always said that you rely on the team, and I didn't want to make any changes coming off of a road victory."
Dominic Oduro had nearly handed Chicago three points against the Claret and Cobalt when his early header hit the crossbar. The Ghanaian is the lynchpin of the club's attack, using his speed to unlock defenses.
"I still wanted to break [Salt Lake] down through combination with our pace," Klopas said. "We are not a team that is going to rely too much on service."
With Sporting's open 4-3-3 formation, Oduro could have some space to exploit and Chicago may be able to pile more misery on the visitors.