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Match Report: Union 4-0 Sporting KC

Photo: Earl Gardner

Entering Saturday night’s contest against Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park, the lingering questions around the Union camp focused on the team’s poor finishing. Sixty-two seconds into the match, those concerns were answered.

Jack McInerney pounded home a loose ball for his first of two goals on the night, firing the Union to a 4-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.

With the Union back four resolute in defense, the offense pressed forward all night, with McInerney leading the line and Lionard Pajoy adding a threat in attack from the left.

Down 2-0 at the half, Kansas City pressed hard in an attempt to overturn the Union lead but found no way through an organized Union team. With the match stretched, super sub Antoine Hoppenot repeatedly burst in behind the Kansas City defense, first earning a penalty for Pajoy to convert and finally notching a tally of his own in the dying moments of the match.

First Half

Pleased with his side’s performance against DC United, Union manager John Hackworth made only two changes to the starting XI. Raymon Gaddis replaced Sheanon Williams due to injury, and Lionard Pajoy returned from suspension to take over for Josue Martinez.

Hackworth did not have to wait long for his decisions to pay off. Inside the match’s first minute, Amobi Okugo spotted a forward-rushing Ray Gaddis and put his lofted service into the fullback’s stride. Racing towards the touchline, Gaddis drove the ball across the face of goal where Lionard Pajoy, at full stretch, managed to keep the ball in play for Jack McInerney. McInerney toe-poked the ball into the net, sending the PPL Park crown into dreamland.

Stunned by the early goal, Kansas City regrouped, finding space in the midfield through Graham Zusi’s play. Despite Sporting’s recovery, the Union remained well organized at the back. Kansas City managed no more than a blocked shot and a corner as captain Carlos Valdes led the Union defense by example, putting in a performance of the highest quality.

Another long service from Okugo nearly opened up Kansas City again in the 21st minute, when he found a streaking Pajoy. Running out of real estate on the end line, Pajoy’s neat backheel found Gabriel Farfan who quickly played in Michael Lahoud. Unfortunately for the Union, Lahoud could not get a shot off, carrying it instead over the endline, with Jimmy Nielsen between him and a two-goal cushion.

Kansas City’s much vaunted offense continued to turn up the pressure as they searched for an equalizer before half. Both Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury had chances in front of goal, though neither could find the target.

With Kansas City failing to capitalize on their growing pressure, the Union found the breakthrough that would give them an insurance goal just before halftime.

Michael Farfan and McInerney proved the release valve as the Union broke Sporting’s spell of pressure, with the pair figuring prominently in the build up play. The Union began to throw numbers forward, and when Kei Kamara scythed down Gabe Farfan in a dangerous position, Freddy Adu stepped up to take the free kick. Sporting failed to track Carlos Valdes’ late run into the box, and when the ball ricocheted off of a defender, Valdes knocked the ball loose for McInerney to blast home his second goal from close range, sending the crowd into euphoria and the Union into halftime with a comfortable lead.

Second Half

Despite the need for goals coming out of halftime, Kansas City failed to find an offensive spark, and the match descended into chippy fouling in the second half’s opening minutes.

Neither side controlled the play as the match crept towards the hour mark, and coach Hackworth brought on live-wire substitute Antoine Hoppenot to exploit the extra space created as Kansas City pushed more numbers into attack.

It would be Kansas City with the next scoring chance, however, as Kamara jumped over Gabe Farfan, nodding the ball into Teal Bunbury’s path. With only MacMath to beat, Bunbury skewed his shot badly, missing the target and failing to worry the Union goalkeeper.

Hoppenot nearly made his coach look like a genius on 69 minutes, when he slipped in behind the tiring pair of Aurelien Collin and Lawrence Olum. Racing onto Michael Farfan’s through ball, Hoppenot elected to chip the keeper, only to see his effort fly over the crossbar. It was a break for Kansas City, but the danger Hoppenot posed was clear.

Before he would get his next chance though, Kansas City nearly halved the Union’s lead when Graham Zusi sent a free kick hurtling towards Zac MacMath’s far post. MacMath was equal to it and pushed the shot away at full stretch, preserving his clean sheet.

Waves of Kansas City pressure continued to crash against the Union back four, but the immense play of Carlos Valdes kept the visitors out and in the 80th minute, the Union finally put the match to bed.

With the Union needing to find relief from Sporting’s offensive pressure, it was Amobi Okugo who again turned provider, putting Hoppenot through with pinpoint service. Locating the fleet-footed Hoppenot, he sent the striker in behind the defense. After Hoppenot turned Collin with some clever dribbling, the big Frenchman was forced to drag Hoppenot to the ground. It was a clear penalty, and referee Terry Vaughn did not hesitate to point to the spot.

Lionard Pajoy took the ball. After sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, he coolly buried the penalty, killing off any chance of a Kansas City comeback.

The Union were not finished attacking though, as Hoppenot again proved the danger man. In a near carbon copy of his first effort, he onto a Michael Farfan lofted through ball and raced in on Nielsen. Given a second opportunity to measure his chip, Hoppenot got it right, lofting the ball over the Kansas City goalkeeper, nestling it in the back of the net, and providing a fitting end to the Union’s most complete and dominant performance of 2012.

John Hackworth’s Post-Game Press Conference
Post-Game Player Interviews with Ray Gaddis, Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot and Amobi Okugo
Philadelphia Union

Zac MacMath; Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud; Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot ’59), Jack McInerney (Keon Daniel ’73), Lionard Pajoy

Unused Substitutes: Chris Konopka, Porfirio Lopez, Josue Martinez, Jorge Perlaza, Roger Torres

Sporting Kansas City

Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Lawrence Olum, Seth Sinovic; Julio Cesar (Michael Thomas ’64), Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza (Jacob Peterson ’84) ; CJ Sapong (Soony Saad ’74), Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara

Unused Substitutes: Eric Kronberg, Michael Harrington, Konrad Warzycha, Peterson Joseph

Scoring Summary

2 – PHI: McInerney (Pajoy)

43 – PHI: McInerney (Valdes)

81 – PHI: Pajoy (PK)

87 – PHI: Hoppenot (M. Farfan)

Discipline Summary

17 – PHI: Carroll (caution)

22 – SKC: Cesar (caution)

25 – PHI: Gaddis (caution)

63 – PHI: Lahoud (caution)

80 – SKC: Collin (caution)


Terry Vaughn


  1. Second of all: what wonderful subs! Adu had an off night, but I don’t think that is a sub Nowak makes. Daniel for Jack Mac made sense for added midfield support, and didn’t ruin the formation as Pajoy and Hop were still natural strikers.

    • I was watching the game on TV and man did Jack looked gassed when he left the field. I know they were protecting the lead late in the game, so it is expected to be slow when leaving the field. But he looked done. Great game by Jack Mac leaving it all on the field and a great sub at the right time by Hackworth.

      • I don’t think Jack is there yet as far as game shape. Which is to be expect since NOWAK BENCHED HIM FOREVER! Sorry for the caps… I get angry sometimes…

      • The Black Hand says:

        Jack took his sweet time leaving the pitch, as a player should when they have the lead

    • I think it was also to give J-Mac the recognition he utterly and truly deserved on the night. The crowd did nothing but appreciate it and express their feelings.

  2. Third of all: Okugo’s distribution is fantastic! A long ball by him led to the first goal and helped draw our PK. I still want him to get back to DM sooner or later, but having him on the field is a major boost for our passing.

  3. JediLos117 says:

    I love it when I’m wrong! Especially in regards to the U. Jack was great and only wish he was on the park to convert the pen for his hat…could I be wrong that our season was over? I hope so! Such a strong message sending win! So sweet!!!

  4. Mario in QT says:

    KC was a very physical team. Unless the referee is on top of it Freddy is unable to perform in such a situation. He gets pushed off the ball too easily. The substitution was at a good time. Also loved the Hoppenout sub. SKC had to come at us in the cecond half and a speedy/fresh striker was the great ingredient for counter soccer. I like our new coach. As a matter of fact I wonder if it was his idea to play just like this for a number of games at the beginning of our first year. Exciting attacking football. Last week after losing to DC I left the stadium kind of excited witht he way we created numerous scoring chances. This week I left in euphoria with all the converted chances. GOOO HACK!!!

  5. James Korman says:

    Great game! I just watched it on my DVR so I could enjoy it again this morning. I’ve got to hand it to Jack Mac. Great game. Pajoy looks good to me in the 4-3-3. He seems to have rapport with Jack up front. Haters are gonna hate but I’d leave Pajoy, Mac, and Adu up front for a while. Hoppenot should enter EVERY game as needed. He’s the perfect spark plug off the bench this year. Next year? Who knows?

    Carlos Valdes was dominant out on the pitch. The entire Defense was rock solid!

    Congrats to John Hackworth and the guys for an exciting, awe-inspiring victory for the new look Philly Union. Woot Woot!!!

  6. Great result! Finally, something to celebrate. They did not play as well as the last game but got a result unlike the last game. Now they have to put it all together. Then we have something.
    KC was a tough opponent though and they appeared to have dominated for great portions of the game. But it’s really the result that counts and it was a great result. Something the fans have been waiting for all year. Good for them.
    Adu’s inconsistency is begining to trouble me. He is either great or completely invisible.
    Gaddis was having a very hard time defending on the right. He got some help though. We need Williams back as soon as possible.
    Hoppenot’s decision making is troubling. He got away with it this game but it worries me.
    Valdez is the man! Period. The best player on the team. He needs a reliable partner at CB though. He can’t put it all on the line like that every game. He needs help and fast.
    Again, great game. I will resurve judgement about Hackworth for two or three more games. Thus far he has done a good job.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I disagree about Hoppenot. Aside from his first chip, he was quality. He drew the penalty and his goal was our best finish of the year. He might be our best forward.

      • Hoppenot has been an absolute revelation. With his pace and first touch, he has created scoring chances every time he’s been on the field. If he keeps up this level of play, the guy has a tremendously bright future.

  7. Could not believe it. Jack Mac, valdes, pretty much everyone had a good game.

  8. Pajoy versus LeToux race really heating up. Both strikers lead their respective teams with 4 goals. (Both players have an assist as well.) Who has odds on the winner of that race? I give the edge to Lionard Pajoy with the coaching change in Philadelphia. And how would LeToux have looked in Hack’s 4-3-3? Just wondering.

    • There is no race. (No jokes about a footrace after an impressive win like that!) Let’s give Pajoy credit for playing a good game and separate him from Le Toux at this point. One has nothing to do with the other, and it’s unfair to Pajoy. Le Toux would probably be playing the center forward role that McInerney is in, because that’s where he scores goals from. (Le Toux has never scored much as a winger, even though he got a game-winner for Vancouver last week.)

      • I don’t get the Pajoy haters. He is a stable, professional forward. He does need to score more, and hopefully he will as the team hopefully heats up.

      • I think at this point it’s a matter of stepping back, recognizing what kind of player he is, and evaluating him for that, rather than people’s expectations. He was brought in by Nowak as a target forward who was expected to score in place of Le Toux. Instead, he’s what you described: A stable, professional forward. He’s good in the air, he plays defense, and he seems like a good teammate. He is neither a target forward nor big scorer. Rather, he is more comfortable on the wing but lacks the speed to do there what wingers typically do. He played a key role last night, and the sooner he is freed of comparisons to Le Toux, the better he’ll fare.

      • In his current role he is overpaid….

      • Dan Walsh says:

        Yep, looks that way. But with everyone else looking better under Hackworth, maybe Pajoy will continue to as well. He’s important on set piece defense with such a small back line. Maybe the goals (in the run of play) will come.

      • Dont agree that he plays defense

      • The Black Hand says:

        He was back in our defensive end quite a bit. Pajoy worked hard on Saturday. Could argue that he was a bit too defensive minded.

      • On set pieces? Really? Look again.

      • For real? Near the end of the match it was as though he took over Gaddis’ position.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Dude won at least 6 important defensive headers. credit where credit is due.

      • I want to give Pajoy the benefit of the doubt. He has 4 goals and he’s played lousy. I’m pretty sure he’s better than what he’s shown us the first third of the campaign. So let’s all see what happens in a 4-3-3 with consistent partners up top and a more innovative manager. I, for one, have not given up on Lio Pajoy yet. He was back helping out on defense quite a bit on Saturday and seemed pretty darned active. you cannot call the guy lazy. And…. I trust Hack to play the best guys.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Le Who?

  9. First things first: vote for line of the night from Bob Rigby (doing this from memory). A-“38 hour travel time? That must be almost half way around the world or something.” or B-“I even see smiles coming from the play-by-play guy too”

    Great games from Valdes, Okugo, Carroll, Jack Mac, and . Very solid efforts from Gaddis, Garfan and Lehoud , who looks like he might be that perfect midfield pairing w Carroll and Marfan bc of his pace and hard work. I hope they do not bring on lazy Gomez. 

    I’m usually a Freddy fan but he was a little off in the run of play today, excellent crosses from set pieces however. 

    Marfan had a tough game I thought, not that e played badly, he just never quite looked like he was on. 

    I’m sorry but Pajoy just does not do it for me, he has a little more of a calming influence, but too many times he was just standing in a spot.

  10. I may be alone in this belief, but I think Okugo is a much better overall CB than Califf. His distribution out of the back is such an asset and he doesn’t seem to get beat. Okugo really seemed to be creating offensive breakouts. Loved it last night.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Agreed. Califf might be a bit more challenging, physically, but Amobi surpasses him everywhere else.

  11. i said 2-1 u,but guess what?i was wrong.4-0 u. this is a good win to boost our confidence.if we keep winning,we have a shot at the playoffs.come on u!

  12. let me say somthing about Pajoy,the dude is a striker/defender!he is everywhere.so is Valdes.thats why we won

  13. Union Nation says:

    Spectacular game, in person. Can’t praise the boys enough.

    Watched the broadcast this morning and my ears are bleeding. Great game by J P but We/Us Rigby killed me. Having lost their last two color guys,the U clearly wanted no chance of it happening again.

    Five steps to recovering the fans:
    1. Fire Nowak CHECK
    2. Consistent and young lineup. CHECK
    3. Fire Nick S
    4. Spend allocation money on the field, not on paying down Adu’s salary
    5. Please, please, please take Bob Rigby out back and put a full machine gun clip into him. Firing is too good for him.

  14. Ever scents the player Trades of the off season and the way Nowak and the Squad started this season. I was feeling like the Club was gutted. I watched what looked like the life pour out of the Club and its fans. Then Nowak was gone he may have known soccer but he didn’t seem to known Philly and it’s fans.
    Last night as I watched the game, I saw the life come back, not only to the squad, but to the US the fans. I saw our players play with heart and show strength and they kept fighting. I’ve always been Proud of our boys in UNION Blue and Gold. But last night really gave me something to cheer about. Here’s to the UNION may it last long and be Strong and Proud for many many years.

  15. I think we all saw last night what we felt we should have seen all year. Only difference between last night and the DC game is we finished our chances. I was very happy to see lack get off to the races and for hoppenot to show what he can do off the bench. I won’t put the cart before the horse but I think we are making strides towards playing enjoyable soccer.

    I liked omobi at center back and it just may be the best position for him as long as Carroll is still in the lineup. He looked calm and collected and played a lot of good balls upfield. Also he covered Carlos a lot when he was using his athleticism and instinct to make plays further away from the center.

    Finally a game worth cheering and reading about. Let’s take care of Harrisburg on Tuesday. I would encourage anyone who can to come out. The last game though poorly attended actually was a lot of fun.

  16. I predict that Hoppenot jerseys will be flying off the racks if he “sparkplug” keeps that up.

  17. Macmath; williams, okugo, valdes, garfan; carroll, marfan, daniel, mcinerney, pajoy, hoppenot

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