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Match report: Sporting KC 1-1 Union

“And I applaud the team because there was a lot of heart, even in a very difficult situation, a very physical game, they did the job done so it’s a very positive sign especially being behind and then also the young group we have.”

Well said, Peter Nowak.

Sebastien Le Toux scored his seventh goal in seven games and the Philadelphia Union earned a valuable away point Friday night in a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Park in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Michael did a great job and give me a platter so if I miss I have to really be mad at myself, so it was all Michael on this one. It’s nice to have seven goals in seven games but it’s good for my team. It’s good we get a point tonight,” a humble Le Toux said after the match.

And Le Toux was correct, although he can take some credit for being the archetype of the team-first hustle that Michael Farfan displayed in creating the tying goal.

Wide open at the start

The match started atypically for the Union, with the team moving the ball through the midfield swiftly and at ground level. In the second minute, Marfan, again in a holding midfield role, pushed a square ball to Brian Carroll who found Roger Torres. The playmaker found Veljko Paunovic around the center circle and his first time ball split the defense and found Le Toux breaking down the right. Seba hit a tight angle shot that went wide of goal, but it laid an early marker in a high tempo affair.

Kansas City was also quick to lay their cards on their table. In the third minute Zac MacMath was off his line quickly to smother a cross. It was the first of 21 that KC would spray into the Union penalty area over the next 87 minutes.

In the fourth minute, Marfan tracked back well to break up a KC break as Kyle Martino explained that Sebastien Le Toux’s current scoring streak was the result of “playing higher up the field.” Unfortunately, this would not be the last thing Kyle Martino said, but it was the last time Marfan would occupy the midfield.

Personnel panic

Peter Nowak experimented with Kyle Nakazawa at right back, but very quickly lost his nerve. While some may say that any time is too long for Naka in the back, the young midfielder was given no chance to prove himself before the coaching staff panicked and switched him with Marfan. This move also necessitated moving Amobi Okugo into a more defensive role alongside Brian Carroll. Nakazawa was essentially given the task of marking KC playmaker Graham Zusi, which he did rather well.

Nakazawa was not, however, a factor offensively. Even moved into the back line, those duties still fell to the incredibly in-form Michael Farfan. The Union’s second round draft pick broke down the right touchline in the 16th minute where a wonderful Torres pass found his feet. A hard cut left his defender reeling as Marfan laid a low cross onto the feet of an onrushing Veljko Paunovic. KC’s own attacking right back, Chance Myers, executed a fine slide and barely cleared the danger.

Back in the “groove”

While this was all very exciting, Kei Kamara’s 30 yard strike, which went well over the bar, was much more indicative of the match as a whole. Frustrated at the Union’s stout defense, Kamara ripped a poorly advised shot over in the 19th. This seemed to wake both teams’ natural tendencies, and the Union spent the rest of the half dropping deep while Sporting pushed the ball up the wings and crossed into a Valdes-and-Califf built void.

In the 40th, Paunovic was again able to release Le Toux, this time up the left. The striker cut on the edge of the box and looked to cross. Even after waiting two seconds, he found nobody but Pauno.

On the other end, Kamara was a constant threat. He saw a cross to Bunbury cleared by a diving Califf header in the 44th, rounding off a dangerous but fruitless display from the KC strike force.

KC opens scoring

In the second half, Kamara would finally get his just rewards. Receiving the ball on the left, Kamara took advantage of the copious amounts of space afforded him by a cautious Brian Carroll. The striker cut to his right and spun in a beautimous low, spinning cross that Omar Bravo met with a fine volleyed finish.

The Union immediately responded by throwing on Jack McInerney for Veljko Paunovic. The young striker was already preparing to enter but the goal made his arrival all the more necessary.

Peter Nowak would later say, “I think Jack McInerney came in and changed the game with his speed and movement and tried to hold the ball for us, got a little bit unlucky with the shot. he brought us life.”

And he was right.

In the 58th, McInerney dropped the ball for Torres before embarking on a breathtaking angled run behind the defense. Torres found him, and McInerney saw his effort denied by sprawled Jimmy Nielsen. It was the Union’s first official shot on goal of the night.

Marfan moves, Le Toux on the board

Moments later, Michael Farfan ensured that it would not be the last. When Roger Torres fluffed his shot across the eighteen, Marfan sprinted down the errant strike, rounded a defender, froze another, then crossed to Le Toux who had the easy job of slotting home.

Sporting tried to strike back immediately but MacMath produced a fine save in front of the onrushing Bravo. The match devolved into a boot-and-chase contest with neither team willing to take many risks. When the final whistle blew both teams were a point closer to the first place Columbus Crew, but neither can claim any major steps forward.

In fact, Mr. Nowak summed it up well when he said, “I believe that every point at this stage is very valuable. Regardless if you play home or away. We see the standings right now how tight it is for the playoff spots. And even we have home games, especially against New England when we behind, we see every point is valuable right now of course we are happy with the effort, as a coaching staff as a technical staff, because it’s gonna move us forward. You don’t want to have a good game against Columbus then come and be losing a game.”

The Union next play DC United at PPL Park on September 28hth.


  1. I’ve become completely at peace with the U’s performance. I really believe they are a 3rd place team personified: good, but not that good. Hell of a fun ride for only our second season. Certainly would love to see us get some luck down the stretch and in the playoffs.

  2. Good game. They were moving the ball quickly, which was great. But their lack of experience showed because they lost possession so often. They need to continue to adjust to faster game play.

    Nakazawa was invisible. The goal that was scored on the Union was, I believe, a direct result of the lack of depth in the back. Bravo beat his marker.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the game.

    • Bravo did not beat his marker; he attacked the ball while his marker (Marfan) was daydreaming (ball watching). Was an unfortunate defensive lapse by Marfan who otherwise had a good game. An excellent defender would have cleared the ball before Bravo got the ball.

      • Bravo beat Garfan (as opposed to Marfan), who was ball watching.. The cross came in while Marfan was MIA, and Carroll was giving Kamara about 10 minutes to wait for something to open up.

      • Yes, hense the lack of natural defender in the back. Garfan was out of position. He should have been on the left of Bravo. Garfan is going to have to learn his position. In the mean time the Union’s defense will suffer. Especially, when Nakazawa begins the game as a defender!

  3. Great game management by the Union coaching staff…before and during the game.

    • Not sure you can call a lineup that needed changing after 5 minutes great pre-game management.

      • Well, you could argue it both ways. He gave Nakazawa a few minutes to see what he could do and had a contingency plan in place if his gut told him to try otherwise. I think it would’ve been interesting to see how Nak played out for a half, but I can’t criticize this that much. What you can criticize, however, is building a roster with only 3 legitimate (and usable) defenders when your formation requires 4 — and backups. Marfan belongs in the attack.

  4. Also, while I wanted to punch something at the sight of the Torres sub (and the 4-3-3 formation, with three holding midfielders, three very slightly advanced midfielders, and no attackers), the most experienced player they had on the bench behind Migz was Morgan Langley with about 10 minutes of MLS experience. And this is after they put in the 16 year old.

    If they were set on getting a tired Torres (who was still doing fine, for what it’s worth) off the field, you probably do want someone with a bit more experience than 10 minutes coming into a tied game.

  5. Also I still think Jack Mac deserves more minutes, or at least more respect. Another wonderful shot that forced a great save and almost still went in. He seems to put balls on target left and right. He is the best pure finisher on the team.
    Overall though I was pleased. In a hostile game like this, where a tie is a victory for us, I am not sure how much I can nitpick.

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