Sporting Kansas City lost for the fourth time in five games and almost certainly will slip from first place in the Eastern Conference before the weekend is finished.
Sporting KC could slide as low as fourth place after a 1-0 loss Friday against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
It was a familiar story for Sporting KC (11-9-6) statistically dominant — 59.3 percent of the possession, an 18-12 edge in shots, more crosses into the box and superior passing accuracy — but a loss on the ledger.
The Fire (10-10-4) broke through in the 13th minute when right back Jalil Anibab corkscrewed a cross from the right flank to the far post.
Midfielder Mike Magee centered the ball (and saved it from going out of bounds for a goal kick) with a sliding boot, slipping a pass between right back Chance Myers and centerback Aurelien Collin.
Making only his second MLS start, Fire centerback Hunter Jumper dove low and headed the ball in for a 1-0 lead.
Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made sure it didn’t get worse before halftime.
Nielsen punched away a 20-yard drive by Alex in the 16th minute, which was on frame.
Flash forward another 10 minutes and the leading scorer in MLS, Magee, tested Nielsen with a close-range blast from the left side toward the near post, but the All-Star goalkeeper from Denmark again snuffed the chance.
Sporting KC had several chances of its own, including two golden opportunities off long throw-ins by Matt Besler.
During the second minute, Graham Zusi, who had missed the last three matches with a right quad strain, got on the end of a Besler throw-in, but his left-footed try from atop the goal box sailed high.
Now trailing 1-0, forward Teal Bunbury, who made his first start since tearing his ACL nearly a year ago, collected another long throw-in at the penalty spot, but sent his right-footed drive high.
Two minutes later, Bunbury got a toe on a cross that bundled through the box two minutes later, but couldn’t get nearly enough power behind the shot to beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Johnson, who was on the U.S. men’s national team roster for the Gold Cup, didn’t play in the July 7 meeting at Toyota Park, a 2-1 victory for Sporting KC.
During the 40th minute, Austin Berry saved Johnson by nicking the ball away from a sliding C.J. Sapong to clear a dangerous Benny Feilhaber cross to safety.
Sapong, who was briefly loaned to Orlando City SC, returned to the starting lineup for the first time in two months.
Fire forward Chris Rolfe blew a golden opportunity when he blew a two-man breakaway, eschewing a touch wide left to Magee for a curling shot that was never on frame at the near post.
Nielsen came up big again in the 74th minute when second-half substitute Juan Luis Anangano blasted a point-blank shot around a defender.
The rocket appeared ticketed for the upper right corner before Nielsen tipped it off the crossbar with a fingertip save.
During the 81st minute, Peterson Joseph played a gorgeous half-volley pass from the midfield for second-half sub Dom Dwyer, whose first touch was heavy or he might have been in for the equalizer.
Two minutes later, Dwyer long, lofted header smacked the crossbar as the tying goal never came.
Johnson denied a blast from left back Seth Sinovic during the 86th minute at the left post.