Major League Soccer (Mid)Week 13: Sporting Kansas City Debut Livestrong Park With 0-0 Tie Vs. Fire

A pitch invader dressed in a cow costume qualifies as the highlight of the match

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Sporting Kansas City Vs. Chicago Fire: Beautiful Stadium, But Ugly 0-0 Tie

When a pitch invader dressed in a cow costume qualifies as the highlight of any match, you know it was probably a bad one. When that match was also the debut of what is probably the most beautiful soccer stadium in North America, that's just sad. Yet, that was the situation as Sporting Kansas City christened Livestrong Sporting Park with a 0-0 tie against the Chicago Fire.

The match did feature some interesting moments, at least. The last 20 minutes saw the pitch invader, Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen pick up a red card and nine minutes of stoppage time. There was also an opportunity for referee Michael Kennedy to award a penalty, but a rash tackle by Bratislav Ristic on Omar Bravo inside the penalty area went unpunished.

The best scoring chance for either side was provided by the Fire's Orr Barouch. Shortly after Nielsen was sent off, SKC backup goalkeeper Erik Kronberg failed to handle a shot from outside the box and the rebound went straight out to Barouch. The Israeli forward was able to beat Kronberg, but his shot rang off the underside of the crossbar.

Sporting's best scoring chance came in the first half when Graham Zusi actually scored, but the play was correctly ruled offside.

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Major League Soccer (Mid)Week 13: Sporting Kansas City Debut Livestrong Park Against Chicago Fire

Sporting Kansas City will unveil Livestrong Sporting Park to the world tonight against the Chicago Fire in a match being broadcast live on ESPN 2.

Tonight's match is the culmination of 15 long years (Well, 15 and 1/2 years at this point.) for soccer fans in Kansas City. Sporting Kansas City / Kansas City Wizards / Kansas City Wiz fans have seen their team play matches in the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium. They've also seen them play in the cramped and awkward-for-soccer Community American Ballpark. All of the photographs and videos of Livestrong Sporting Park have shown such a beautiful stadium. Soccer fans throughout the USA have another gem of a stadium of which to be proud.

Unfortunately, tonight's match features two of the three worst teams in the entire league. (I'll let you throw Vancouver Whitecaps somewhere in that group.) Chicago enters tonight's game having not won since they last faced Kansas City --- in March. That's eleven (11!) matches without a win. There's a reason that Fire management decided it was time to get rid of Carlos del los Cobos. Kansas City enter tonight having not won in league play since opening night. Yeah, you read that right. They haven't won a match in the league since March 19. Hopefully the aura of the new stadium allows both teams to play much better than they have this year.

Sporting will be without Shavar Thomas, Craig Rocastle, and Roger Espinoza to Gold Cup duties. Chicago will be without Marco Pappa.

Lineups:

Sporting Kansas City: Nielsen, Harrington, Besler, Collin, Myers; Kamara, Sassano, Arnaud, Smith Zusi; Bravo, Bunbury

Subs: Kronberg, Diop, Stojcev, Zusi, Cesar, Sinovic, Sapong

Chicago Fire: Johnson; Risitc, Cuesta, Gibbs, Segares; Oduro, Paladini, Pause, Bone; Puerari, Nazarit

Subs: Conway, Robinson, Husidic, Nyarko, Chaves, Videira, Barouch

 

Edited for:

 

Ryan Smith is a late scratch. Tweaked a knee in pregame warmups. Graham Zusi starts in his place.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

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Columbus Crew Vs. Real Salt Lake: Crew Come From Behind To Defeat RSL, 2-1

The Columbus Crew have never been ones to play pretty. Many of their matches turn ugly and Wednesday night's contest against Real Salt Lake at Crew Stadium was no different. Unlike their recent matches though, the result turned favorable for the Crew, who came back from a goal down to defeat Salt Lake, 2-1, to end a five-match winless streak.

The visitors were first on the scoreboard when Jamison Olave got on the end of a corner kick. The kick went all the way across to the back post, where Olave put an awkward touch on it that bounced before going into the upper corner of the net.

That goal stood up until the 76th minute when Olave got involved again, this time on behalf of the Crew. The defender took down Justin Meram and the referee was absolutely correct in pointing to the penalty spot. Andres Mendoza took the kick and with Nick Rimando going the other way, had no issue finishing to level the match.

Not even 10 minutes later Columbus got themselves a winner. Josh Gardner found space in the middle, took a big touch and still nobody closed down on him so he fired from 25 yards. The shot took a deflection off of a defender so Rimando was going the wrong way as the ball settled into the net for the match-winner.

As nice as a win may feel for the Crew, there are serious questions about RSL after yet another loss. Since losing to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final on April 27 they have just one win. That swoon comes with the injury to Javier Morales, which has completely taken the life out of the attack and shows no signs of getting better anytime soon as he is still months away from a return and Alvaro Saborio remains with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup.

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Columbus Crew Vs. Real Salt Lake: Jamison Olave Has RSL Up At Half

The Columbus Crew have showed more attacking spark than they have for most of the season, but it hasn't paid off. Their forays forward have resulted in shots and crosses, but not goals. Not that they have completely dominated Real Salt Lake, because they haven't, but it has been pretty good for a team that has questions in their attack. And as unfortunate as it may be that the Crew haven't been able to turn bright attacking into goals, it is even more unfortunate that they are behind, 1-0, because of a Jamison Olave goal.

A Salt Lake corner kick went all the way across and past the far post where Olave was battling to get free from his mark. He never really did get free, instead remaining tangled up, but he did enough to get a foot (or maybe a shin?) to the ball. It bounced up and into the upper corner, putting RSL ahead, 1-0.

The Crew didn't panic though and continued to play well. They came so close to scoring when Nick Rimando punched a cross only as far as Eddie Gaven, who struck the ball well, but just wide of the post. Other attacks gave the Crew chances, but not were made good and after 45 minutes, Columbus trails.

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Columbus Crew Vs. Real Salt Lake: Lineups

It's MLS midweek action from the Rust Belt as the Columbus Crew host Real Salt Lake. For the Crew, the goal will be to one or two in the net and jolt their stagnant attack. It has been atrocious for most of the season with the exception of a 3-3 draw with Chivas and has been a big reason why they are winless in their last five matches.

Salt Lake has also struggled to score of late, but their problem is much easier to pinpoint. The injury to Javier Morales has left them without creativity in the final third and finding chances has been difficult, let alone putting them away. Playing without Alvaro Saborio, who is with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup, won't help matters either.

Columbus Crew: Hesmer, Miranda, Marshall, James, Gardner, Gaven, Ekpo, Burns, Balchan, Mendoza, Cunningham

Real Salt Lake: Rimando, Beltran, Olave, Schuler, Wingert, Grabavoy, Warner, Beckerman, Gonzalez, Alexandre, Espindola

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Major League Soccer (Mid)Week 13 Preview: Livestrong Sporting Park Finally Makes MLS Debut

There are lots of ways to measure the progress of Major League Soccer over the past 15 seasons. None of them are more obvious than the quality of the stadiums. When Livestrong Sporting Park makes its MLS debut on Thursday, it will be the league's 14th stadium that was either designed or retrofitted specifically with soccer in mind. By all indications, it will also be among the most glamorous. 

All the bells and whistles might not be ready for this game, but eventually Sporting Park will be among the most technologically advanced. The pitch looks perfect. The stands look impressive. The only question is whether or not the product on the field can live up to everything else.

Columbus Crew vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday

After more than two months of uninspiring play, RSL finally looked like the team many of us expected them to be during last Saturday's 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. That it came with several starters missing due to international duty and a strikeforce that included midfielder Jean Alexandre at forward is no small feat. Mainly, that's because this is the team RSL will be forced to play with for the next couple weeks as Paulo Jr. continues to recover from an injury and Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez are with their Gold Cup teams. The Crew, meanwhile, continue to look unimpressive while not falling apart. They haven't won in five matches and have just one win in their past seven, but also have just two losses in that seven-match span. They are also looking particularly thin with their attacking options as Robbie Rogers, Dilly Duka and Tommy Heinemann are all going to be absent and Emilio Renteria is still recovering from an injury. Pick: RSL 1-0.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire, 10 p.m., Thursday (ESPN2)

At long last, Sporting will finally get to play a match at home. The 10-match road trip to open the season did not go quite as smoothly as SKC brass had hoped and they have recently expressed the opinion that petitioning to open the season that way was maybe not the best idea. As they prepare to open Livestrong Sporting Park, they sit on six points and will likely need to average no fewer than 2 points per home match just to have any hope of making the playoffs. That effort starts with a match agains the Chicago Fire, a team that is off to a pretty disappointing start themselves. Their win against SKC in Week 2 remains their only win of the season as they are in the midst of a 10-match winless streak (even longer than SKC, if you can believe it). They looked dangerous at times last week against the Seattle Sounders, but were obviously missing the contributions of Marco Pappa. Pick: SKC 2-1.

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