The Chicago Fire kept their reign of terror on Sporting Kansas City going as they came from behind to defeat their Eastern Conference rival by a score of 2-1 in front of a home crowd of 14,159 at Toyota Park.
Sporting struck first in the 30th minute on a Bobby Convey goal shortly after Fire defender Arne Friedrich left the game with a hamstring strain. The Fire scored twice in the second half though, first through a Sebastian Grazzini PK and later through a Dominic Oduro tap-in after Sporting were reduced to ten men.
The Fire started out as the stronger of the two sides. And in the 4th minute, Julio Cesar was issued a yellow card for a rough sliding tackle on Dominic Oduro.
The Fire had the first real opportunity of the match in the 6th minute. After the ball bounced around in the box, it fell to Jalil Anibaba, whose shot from about 6 yards out and to the right was deflected out of play.
Sporting KC had their first real chance in the 20th minute. Striker Kei Kamara found space on the top of the box and fired a shot on frame. Fire Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was able to tip the shot over for a corner kick.
Sporting Midfielder Roger Espinoza joined the fun in the 24th minute, but his shot from the top of the box was harmlessly scooped up by Johnson.
A pivotal moment in the match came in the 27th minute when Fire defender Arne Friedrich looked to injure his hamstring while challenging for a loose ball. Friedrich had to be substituted with Dan Gargan coming on. Jalil Anibaba moved over to center back to accommodate the substitution.
Only moments later, the Fire defense collapsed.
Kamara found midfielder Roger Espinoza down the right flank, and Espinoza put the ball into the box. His low cross found winger Bobby Convey, who was able to lose the substitute Gargan and tap the ball past Johnson to give Sporting a 1-0 advantage. The 30th minute goal was Convey's first since joining the club in the offseason.
The Fire got a bit too physical after giving up the goal.
In the 38th minute, Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo was shown a yellow card for a tackle on Cesar.
Then, in the 40th minute, defender Gonzalo Segares picked up a yellow for a hard challenge on Kamara.
Sporting were unfortunate not to double their lead shortly thereafter.
In the 43rd minute, Fire defender Austin Berry slipped while covering Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi. This allowed Zusi to find space down the right flank. His cross found Espinoza, whose shot was deflected on to the crossbar by Johnson.
The Fire must have been happy to hear the halftime whistle, as their early possession had turned into a nightmare following the loss of Friedrich.
The Fire began the second half with some positive play. And after a slow start, Sporting defender Chance Myers picked up a yellow card in the 57th minute.
And in the 60th minute, the Fire got a lifeline.
Dominic Oduro was tackled in the box by Aurelien Collin, which resulted in Referee Jose Carlos Rivero pointing to the spot for a penalty kick. Sebastian Grazzini stepped up and fired a shot into the top right corner of the net past Sporting ‘keeper Jimmy Nielsen to give the Fire the equalizer.
Only moments later, the Fire got a second big break.
Espinoza was shown a red card for a vicious elbow to the face of Grazzini, and for the third consecutive match between the two clubs, Sporting was down a man against the Men in Red.
The Fire should have taken the lead in the 70th minute.
In the 71th minute, the Fire made an attacking substitution, bringing on midfielder Rafael Robayo for Logan Pause as they looked for the game winner.
In the 74th minute, Dominic Oduro found himself with lots of room to run on a counter-attack. Oduro held up for Grazzini, who then found the substitute Robayo alone on the left side of the box. Robayo then went back to Grazzini in the middle, but his slow rolling shot was not strong enough to get past Nielsen.
Right after that, striker Teal Bunbury came up for Sapong, as Sporting weren't looking to simply bunker down and hold on for one point.
In the 78th minute, the Fire made another offensive sub with forward Federico Puppo coming on for Grazzini. Puppo promptly proceeded to pick up a yellow in the 79th minute for coming too early as midfielder Jacob Peterson was coming on for Convey.
The pressure paid off.
With ten minutes to play, winger Patrick Nyarko stole the ball from Kamara, and found Oduro about a yard away from goal for the simplest of tap-ins to give the Fire the 2-1 advantage. The goal was Oduro's fourth of the season and the 16th as a member of the Fire.
The Fire continued to attack and attempt to put the game beyond reach. Sporting made their final substitution as defender Lawrence Olum came on for Matt Besler.
Pavel Pardo nearly scored off a free kick in the 90th minute, but his shot went inches wide of goal.
The frustration showed for Sporting KC in extra time as Kamara made a reckless challenge on Oduro.
Moments later though, the match was over as the Fire picked up their fourth win of the season and kept their Eastern Conference dominance alive. The Men in Red have not lost to a conference rival since May 21, 2011 and haven't lost at home against the East since October 12, 2010.
The Fire were playing their third match in 8 days. They pulled out a stoppage time winner against Chivas USA on May 4 and held Real Salt Lake to a 0-0 draw this past Wednesday.
After winning their first seven matches, Sporting KC had lost their last two matches, including a shocking home loss to expansion side Impact de Montreal.
Starting XI: GK Johnson, DEF Anibaba, DEF Friedrich ('29 for Gargan), DEF Berry, DEF Segares; MF Pause (C) ('71 for Robayo), MID Pardo, MID Pappa; MID Grazzini ('80 for Puppo), FWD Nyarko, FWD Oduro
Substitutes: GK Tornaghi, DEF Gargan ('29 for Friedrich), DEF Jumper, MID Paladini, MID Robayo ('71 for Pause), FWD Puppo ('80 for Grazzini), FWD Barouch
Sporting Kansas City
Starting XI: GK Nielsen (C), DEF Myers, DEF Besler ('88 for Olum), DEF Collin, DEF Harrington, MID Cesar, MID Espinoza, MID Zusi, FWD Kamara, FWD Sapong ('76 for Bunbury), FWD Convey ('78 for Peterson)
Substitutes: GK Kempin, DEF Aiyegbusi, DEF Olum ('88 for Besler), MID Nagamura, MID Peterson ('78 for Convey), FWD Bunbury ('76 for Sapong), FWD Dwyer