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Match report: Union 0-0 Sporting KC

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Call it an episode of Chester Shore.

Shots shots shots-shots-shots. But not much game.

Breaking down the defense

The Union huffed and puffed (and an appearance by Hugh Jackman nearly blew the house down), but Jimmy Nielsen and shooting display worthy of a Die Hard villain left Philadelphia with a single point from two matches against inferior competition after a 0-0 draw against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

Kansas City came out in a one striker set that kept the midfield tight and allowed a physical game to unfold. With Teal Bunbury battling Valdes and Califf for every ball, Sporting committed numerous early fouls on balls in the air.

The Union looked to build through a midfield pairing of Veljiko Paunovic and Brian Carroll, with Justin Mapp in fine form on the wing. Through the first fifteen it was KC on top. Kamara took a bad touch from Califf and drove on goal but his shot hit the seats.

Mac n Mapp

When Philadelphia did emerge, it was behind the running of Justin Mapp. Mapp and Le Toux switched wings and Mapp cut across from left to right with the ball at his feet. He played Le Toux at the top of the box and the ball bounced around to McInerney at the penalty spot. He blasted into a diving Julio Cesar and a rebound was again cleared.

McInerney and Mapp combined again four minutes later when McInerney won the ball just inside his own half. He threaded a line to Mapp who used his joystick to leave Seth Sinovic two steps behind. Mapp’s cross was low and cleared to the feet of Sheanon Williams. The confident fullback laced a rip that stung the hands of Jimmy Nielsen, who would play at a high level throughout.

McInerney had the Sporting defense on its heels, and he collected a loose ball at the top of the box and drove to the edge of the six. A cutback brought him face to face with Nielsen, and the goalie came up huge to stop a low shot aimed far post.

The other strikers

Ruiz was less active than McInerney up top, but he almost put the Union on the board with a curling free kick from 25 yards out that Nielsen turned away. While Ruiz remains a polarizing and inconsistent player, his touch has improved after a disastrous start tot he season.

After Paunovic picked up his first MLS card for a professional foul after a Harvey give away, the Union resumed their pressure. The Serb had a shot blocked from 25 out after Le Toux and McInerney worked the ball around. Mapp later cut inside but his shot rebounded off an embarrassed McInerney. The half ended in auspicious fashion as Chance Myers’ headed clearance fell to Le Toux, who shot wide of target.

Ten behind the ball

Kansas City straight-subbed CJ Sapong in for Teal Bunbury at halftime in a move that dispelled any rumors of the visiting side venturing anywhere near the Philly final third.

CJ Sapong’s Journal: Minute 54. We earned a corner kick. It’s the first time I’ve seen my friend Davy Arnaud since the half. Space is so empty. Stars so far away. I wonder what the hole of a bagel tastes like…

With Sapong isolated up top, Kansas City adopted a defensive posture and absorbed the Union’s pressure. Paunovic sought to play through the center but Matt Besler and Julio Cesar forced Carlos Ruiz to collect balls wide, and the Union never got the necessary numbers into the box to challenge for a winner.

Ruiz, rather contrary to his reputation, performed admirably as a hold-up player and displayed the deft touch, fight, and will that made him a prized signing in the offseason.

Le Toux struggles continue

The tension between Ruiz and Le Toux remained palpable, however, and the strike partners were never able to turn forward movement into goalscoring chances.

Le Toux was pressing in the latter stages of the match, and in the last fifteen minutes he twice found space above the box to turn and shoot. Both strikes were wide of the mark, and Le Toux’s difficult season was summed up in Jimmy Nielsen’s nonchalant response to his drive from 20-yards out late in the second half. The KC keeper was clearly untroubled by a striker who only a  year before had haunted the dreams of MLS goalies.


Amobi Okugo, Keon Daniel and Roger Torres were the preferred subs for Peter Nowak, and only Daniel made a solid impression on the match. Okugo’s nerves showed early, though he recovered to have a reasonable return from injury. Daniel was dangerous up the wing but too often isolated. And Torres failed to create many opportunities for on his prancing runs through the center.

In the end, the Union never sustained the pressure necessary to break down a defensive-minded and physical Kansas City side. The points disappear and the team moves on to Saturday’s match.



  1. This review is just like the match itself, only mentioning Paunovic’s name when he walked on the field and when he should have been sent off for a disgraceful tackle.

    Michael Farfan is the Union’s best midfield spark right now, WAY more effective than Roger Torres, he should have been the first man off the bench.

    • I had a great view of that Paunovic tackle and that SKC player clearly hurdled Paunovic…there’s no way he got that high in the air even if Paunovic made slight contact. The attempted tackle was reckless and deserving of a yellow card, but an ejection is a little much.

      Definitely agree on Marfan. Torres has been great but he doesn’t have the size or the speed to compete with MLS defenders. Marfan or Garfan should be first off the bench if either of them isn’t already starting. Still don’t know why Keon is being used off the bench…the guy kills it every times he steps on the field. He’s a starter for sure.

      • Yeah. Perhaps a little harsh. It just seemed that for that area of the field and for how late it was and for how clearly it wasnt a play for the ball, it could have been judged more harshly.

        The Javier Morales broken leg was a very similar tackle.

        Plus Paunovic had tried to pull another really bad professional foul earlier in the match but missed his man.

  2. Jeremy L. says:

    Honestly, I thought Paunovic did very well. The tackle was reckless, but that’s what yellow cards or for. Considering KC should have had at least three yellows by then, I give him a pass. He was very composed in the middle, especially in the first half, and played some very good balls.

    At full time, though, we in the Supporters’ Section were almost ready to boo the team, or maybe just Nowak. Is Danny Mwanga injured? How else is he not a sub, at least? Mostly, we wondered why he has to change things up every time the team performs well. It’s no wonder Seba can’t do anything right. He’s played with 12 different front 6-es this season. Play him and Danny up top, every game, and he will score and assist goals. Period.

    • Paunovic is an attacking player, supposedly.

      Last night he looked like Chacho 2.0

      Sat way too deep, played every pass sideways and did very little to stoke the offense. Given Michael Farfan’s current form, I would have preferred to see him in that role at the top of the diamond.

      Big ups to Carroll, by the way. MOTM in my eyes. Had his big boy pants on all game.

      • I agree that I’d rather see Farfan playing than a 32-year-old Serbian no one’s heard of, but I disagree about his performance. He released several players with through balls from the halfway line in the first half, and also made some good tackles to retain or recover possession.

    • Andrew Desiderio says:

      I thought Paunovic did pretty well too. Last night was the first night I didn’t even see Danny Mwanga in the stadium. Did anybody see him last night? I heard the broadcast gave the reason of “Coach’s decision”, so that sounds pretty standard. On the other hand, I haven’t seen another MLS team this year park the bus and literally offer nothing on the attack as bad as Sporting did last night. Should have brought Farfan in for Harvery since they had no attack, and I’m not sure why you would bring in Okugo when chasing the game.

      • @Andrew – Danny Mwanga was at the stadium. He picked up a knock on his knee and, according to Nowak, wasn’t hitting the ball the way he liked in practice on Tuesday.

  3. PhillyHotspur says:

    Danny was not fit for the game…..Thus he wasn’t on the bench.

    I’m not completely down on last night’s game…..We played well…..And turned Sporting KC into Wigan Athletic where they put 10 in the box. But like last week’s first half, we waste 90 minutes of some fine chances and drop another bagel.

    Fat Chooch……..completely agreed on how polarizing he is. great touch on that header which got woodwork….but does way too much loafing on the pitch. In the end, he simply isn’t the type of player for the city of Philadelphia.

    Big ups to Wolverine rocking the Union kit and scarf at the game….Compared to Stuart Holden’s appearance and wearing jean shorts….no joke.

    • You’re too kind. This is the WORST team in the league and they were missing their best center back do to suspension. No goals is unacceptable.

      • They’re only the worst team in the league by the numbers. I’d give SKC a lot more credit than their record shows. They’re in a similar situation we were in at the beginning of last year…road game after road game after road game… Once we started playing at PPL our season started to turn around. I’d expect the same from a solid side like SKC in the second half of the season.

        Regardless, SKC is completely short on confidence and was ripe to get their asses handed to them. We can draw the Galaxy and RSL and beat the Red Bulls at home but can’t even muster a goal against SKC? Come on now…this game had 3 points written all over it and we should be up 2 points in the East. I’ll credit this silly draw to Nowak and his completely irrational management of the Union line up. I think the outcome of the Chivas game this weekend will be a decisive moment for Nowak with the fans…anything but a win will be disastrous for him.

  4. I am officially done with Nowak. I can’t give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. He blows. Does he think the Union gets points for starting different line ups every match? I really don’t think he has any plan at all. He’s just hoping if he throws enough shit against the wall, something will stick. I’m seriously considering giving up my season tickets after this season if something is done about him. I’m having a hard time justifying paying to watch this crap in person when I could be pissed off at home for free.

  5. I don’t think KC is the WORST in the league. I’d put Toronto, Vancouver, New England and maybe even Chicago lower than KC on the totem pole. I really think KC is the victim of a crappy schedule, unfortunate injuries and suspensions, and some good ol’ fashioned back luck in the finishing department. That said, I do agree that ZERO goals from 26 attempts is unacceptable.

    • Definitely merit there. Life on the road can definitely be brutal. Probably hard to focus in all baby blues as well.

      • All that said about KC, they didn’t try to score after the first 15 last night. And they couldn’t pass to feet. I don’t know that the Union deserved to win last night, but KC certainly did not. And if they play that way in all away fixtures MLS should introduce relegation just to get rid of them.

    • agreed. According to the history of MLS, both modern version and older version, a team is twice as likely to lose on the road then to win on the road

  6. Let’s assume that Paunovic played better than he did against Vancouver. Not hard, but also not a great achievement.

    Does that make him anything more than 2011 Coudet? An older player who doesn’t make much of an impact and is blocking the development of players with bigger upside.

    • That’s why I called him Chacho 2.0

      He sits too deep and most of his “through” balls are lofted Torres-esque chips, not well-measured passes.

  7. the lineup simply does not make any sense. play a normal midfield nowak its ridiculous. a diamond with carroll, daniel, mapp, and marfan would work. then play mwanga and le toux or mwanga and ruiz up top. jack mac, garfan, torres or the striker who sits off the bench.

    every single fan of the union could tell nowak this. what is he doing?

    • Andrew Desiderio says:

      When the diamond midfield was used this year the Union had the most success and why I am so baffled. I can’t figure out a reason why you would change the lineup so much. Last night the Union started arguably 4 forwards (Ruiz, Le Toux, Jack Mac, and Paunovic) and then had no one to bring on late in the game as a forward. I would love to be in Novak’s head and understand what he truly thinks he is doing on a weekly basis

  8. Even a fresh pair of Nikes couldnt help Le Toux last night…no union goals in last two games…this Vancouver>Kanas City>Chivas stretch looked easier than is prooving to be. Dr. Nowak with his lineup experimentations is maddening!!!

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