Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-2 Sporting Kansas City

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

It was a case of too little, too late for Philadelphia Union as Lawrence Olum’s stoppage time winner eliminated hopes of a Union comeback to send Kansas City to a 2-1 win and end Philadelphia’s season.

Jack McInerney had equalized for the hosts with two minutes to play in normal time, but it was not enough for a Union side who failed to threaten Jimmy Nielsen’s goal with consistency.

After an even, cagey first half in which neither side could find the breakthrough, Sporting Kansas City got on the board first through US international, Graham Zusi, when he headed home Ike Opara’s flick on at the back post.

Roger Torres and Jack McInerney replaced the ineffective Kleberson and Antoine Hoppenot as the Union searched for the two goals they needed, but Kansas City was resolute at the back. It was not until a chaotic moment in the Sporting box that the Union found their opener. Jeff Parke headed the ball back into the box, and when it found its way through a maze of bodies, McInerney burst through to settle and finish past Nielsen.

With the Union still in need of a goal to keep their playoff hopes alive, Kansas City found the winner at the other end when Teal Bunbury cut back for Olum to send Sporting to the top of the Supporters’ Shield table with only New York able to unseat them.

First Half

With captain Brian Carroll suspended for yellow card accumulation, John Hackworth gave Amobi Okugo the chance to move back to his preferred midfield slot. Sheanon Williams slid in to join Parke at center back, with Ray Gaddis and Fabinho manning the fullback slots. Kleberson joined Okugo at central midfield along with Michael Farfan who returned from suspension. In the most surprising move of the day, Antoine Hoppenot started ahead of McInerney and took up the left wing opposite Danny Cruz, with Conor Casey centering them.

Despite playing with six players out of their typical positions, the Union applied early pressure as Sporting Kansas City tried to adjust to their formation. Farfan in particular looked energized in the center of midfield, and he put Gaddis in behind after 10 minutes. The speedy fullback launched a dangerous cross into the box, but Nielsen did well to punch it away before Casey could nod home.

But for all their early energy, the Union failed to create true goalscoring chances. Sporting nearly found an opener through Dom Dwyer in the 14th minute, but the striker smashed his shot just wide of the near post.

In the 23rd minute, Jacob Peterson received a gift as Zusi’s free kick somehow floated through the maze of bodies in the box. With only Zac MacMath to beat, Peterson scuffed his shot though, hitting the ball straight to the Union keeper.

Hoppenot nearly got the Union on the board minutes later. After racing in from the left wing, he delayed on the ball and shot high over Nielsen’s goal, despite two runners streaming into the box.

Tempers began to run high as both teams felt the pressure of needing a win. After Okugo and Aurelien Collin tussled in the Union box, the Frenchman and Casey, who arrived late to add his two cents, were cautioned by Baldomero Toledo.

As the clock wound towards halftime, the Union carved out their best chance of the half. When Casey floated the ball wide of the back post, Farfan directed the ball back across the face of goal. Unfortunately, it flew over the head of the late arriving Hoppenot.

Second Half

Fearing Collin would be red-carded and miss the beginning of the playoffs, Peter Vermes replaced the burly center back with Ike Opara.

Opara wasted no time stamping his name on the match, as he rose to flick on Matt Besler’s long throw in the 47th minute. Zusi slipped past Hoppenot, arrived at the back post, and nodded home to send Sporting into the lead.

Peterson was gifted another chance in the 54th when Fabinho’s clearance rolled straight to the onrushing attacker. But fortunately for the Union, Peterson again made a mess of his finish, and the Union managed to deflect it behind for a corner, which they cleared.

Needing two goals, the Union began to throw bodies forward. Okugo’s switch of fields in the 58th minute sent Hoppenot on his way, but his cross missed all of his teammates.

Moments later, Hoppenot had the chance to run at the defense, but held onto the ball too long, missing the chance to play in Casey. When he did lay in the pass for Gaddis, Nielsen was able to gather at his feet.

That was Hoppenot’s final contribution as Hackworth brought in McInerney and Roger Torres to replace him and an anonymous Kleberson.

The Union had shouts for a penalty turned down in the 67th minute when Fabinho went down under the challenge of Opara after a driving run. Toledo was well placed and saw that Opara’s tackle was forceful but completely clean.

With the Union stretched high up the field, Soony Saad nearly grabbed an insurance goal on the break, but MacMath dove left to deny him at full stretch.

Fabinho continued to drive forward from his left back post, launching a cross in for substitute Sebastien Le Toux in the 72nd minute. Judging the flight of the ball well, Le Toux’s volley flew just high of Nielsen’s near post.

McInerney nearly tied the match in the 76th when a long throw from Williams bounced to him in the box, but a combination of a mishit shot and deflection allowed Chance Myers to head off the line.

Sporting was in full defensive mode by the 82nd minute, when Casey flicked Parke’s cross just over the bar.

McInerney finally found the opener in the 88th minute and it was again Parke who proved the provider. After a chaotic scrum in the box, the ball popped out, but Parke rose highest to flick it back into the area. When the ball somehow found its way through the mass of bodies, McInerney arrived on a streaking run, coolly settling and slotting beneath Nielsen to blow the roof off of PPL Park.

With four minutes of stoppage time to find the match-winner, the Union pressed numbers forward, but it was Sporting who found the better chances. Substitute Teal Bunbury raced away up the left flank before rolling in Jacob Peterson for his third ideal goal-scoring opportunity. But MacMath got down quickly, making another sparkling save to keep his team alive.

It would not matter in the end though, as Olum struck with time nearly out. Peterson hooked the ball in from the right, and Bunbury had time to cut back for a wide open Olum, who made no mistake.

With the loss, the Union’s season came to end as they finish the 2013 season with an even 12-12-10 record. They came into the game needing a win to have any chance at the playoffs, and they did not get it.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Ray Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Jeff Parke, Fabinho; Danny Cruz (Sebastien Le Toux ’70), Amobi Okugo, Kleberson (Roger Torres ’61), Michael Farfan; Antoine Hoppenot (Jack McInerney ’61), Conor Casey
Unused substitutes: Oka Nikolov, Matt Kassel, Michael Lahoud, Aaron Wheeler

Sporting Kansas City
Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin (Ike Opara ’46), Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Ori Rosell, Graham Zusi; Jacob Peterson, Dom Dwyer (Teal Bunbury ’82), Soony Saad (Josh Gardner ’75)
Unused substitutes: Eric Kronberg, Peterson Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Claudio Bieler

Scoring Summary
47 – SKC: Zusi (Opara, Besler)
88 – PHI: McInerney (Parke)
90 – SKC: Olum (Bunbury)

Discipline Summary
41 – SKC: Collin (caution)
41 – PHI: Casey (caution)
51 – PHI: Farfan (caution)

Baldomero Toledo

Match Stats

Philadelphia Union Sporting Kansas City
12 Attempts on Goal 16
3 Shots on Target 7
5 Shots off Target 3
4 Blocked Shots 6
2 Corner Kicks 2
15 Fouls 16
20 Open Play Crosses 10
5 Offsides 2
2 First Yellow Cards 1
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
55 Duels Won 53
50% Duels Won % 49%
355 Total Pass 331
67% Passing Accuracy % 67%
52.1% Possession 47.9%


  1. A fitting end to a frustrating season. Very painful to see SKC celebrating at PPL again.

    Eight goals scored since July 20th just isn’t going to get it down.

  2. Upsetting really, but missing the playoffs is probably better. This way Hack and the FO can’t think they achieved something with this team. I’ll give them the offseason to make a lot of changes, but if Cruz is still starting when next season comes around I vote for firing everyone. MacMath did all he could to give the Union a chance to win at the end there, but it just wasn’t enough.

  3. shitty way to end a season but i’ll be damned if that wasn’t one of the more enjoyable union games to watch this season. with the exception of hop on for jack i liked the line up and the subs were good ones too. can’t help but feel like playing a line up like this more often could have gotten some more points.

    solid game from parke and i really enjoyed watching fabinho going all out for the game towards the end. wish it was enough to make tomorrow more interesting. now the only thing i’m hoping for is new jersey to lose.

    • +1 for everything you said here. In the first half especially there was energy and possession in the midfield of the likes we had not seen the entire season. We were playing a bunch of guys out of position, a few of whom (Kleberson, Hoppenot) had started very few games, missing our stalwart captain, against one of the best teams in the league, and we played them even at least, and at times better. The final goal was not even an indictment of the defense as it was a reflection of the desperate energy they were putting forward. Totally agree that a lineup like this would likely have won more games (and, as a bonus, in more entertaining fashion).

    • I agree. Ironically Hackworth deployed the 4-3-3 last year when the team was ill-suited to do so, yet now he has the personnel to play that formation and he opts for the 4-4-2. If Cruz is going to play, he’s better as a winger/forward like he was used yesterday than a true midfielder. And a Kleberson/Marfan pairing in front of a D-Mid allows both of them to do what they do best. I’ll give Hackworth credit for putting out an effective lineup in a must-win situation, but I have to wonder how the season would’ve paired out if he had done that long ago.

  4. I know Hack complains about the refereeing a lot, but this time there is a legitimate beef. Besler’s foot was clearly over the touchline on the long throw that led to the goal (as well as his next one) but the linesman didn’t bother to call it back.

    • Cruz should have been carded for grabbing dude’s jersey in the middle of an argument Williams was taking acre of space in his throw ins. Officiating was equally bad all around.

    • Handsome Pete says:

      Careful what you wish for. The foot over the line is a staple of the Williams long throw.

      • And I’ll agree, on at least one throw, Sheannon’s foot was over the line, although that at least was down the other end from the linesman rather than right in front of him.

      • As long as one part of the foot is in contact with the touch line, it’s a legal throw.

    • I hate that Farfan got a card for retaliating the other week (as he should have been) but this week when the guy from KC did the same thing he gets a fouled and that’s it. I would just like some consultancy out of MLS officiating.

  5. Atomic spartan says:

    Gotta look at the tape, but from our vantage point in the park, the officiating was infuriating. Lots of trivial contact called, while more heinous fouls went unnoticed. Ref was fortunate he did not lose control, and going by the shoving match, he nearly did. Vermes had his boys flopping at every opportunity, a tactic he accused the Union of using in KC, and Toledo swallowed it whole. Bad as it was, ya gotta hope that Cruz gets to whine at ref no-calls for another team in 2014. It’s embarrassing and counterproductive.

  6. The loss stunk, but it was probably the most fun game I’ve seen all year. Looking forward to the keep ’em, drop ’em post.

    I like Hop’s energy, but his touches are really not good enough. Part of me would rather see Wheeler.

    Casey has to be back, but his minutes need to be managed. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a super sub.

    Okugo has become the engine. They looked so much better without Carrol. I hope he’s gone too.

    • Hoppenot is like Cruz 2.0 a slightly improved version that still isn’t good enough to start. Having both he and Cruz out there at the same time is infuriating.

    • I agree about Casey’s minutes needing to be managed better next year. The guy behind me kept talking trash on him all game long. I wanted to turn around and say “dude he hasn’t played a full season in a few years, didn’t eve play I the off season, and then our idiot coach played him almost every game. The problem isn’t that he’s a trash player, it’s that he’s exhausted”

  7. Hack took Kleberson off 5 minutes too early. Had he stayed on he could have taken the free-kick just outside the penalty box and could have done a better done than Torres did.
    Only hi-light for me were the saves MacMath made.
    Fed up that linesmen don’t flag for foul throws (when throwers step over the line)…

  8. Yup. That was a season. Fun game. We lost. can’t find a reason to complain. I could more or less agree with the lineups (except mac should have started and I hate Cruz), Agree with the subs and agree with the effort.
    We just weren’t good enough. And here we are.

  9. The effort was there (as it’s been from the players all season), but it’s still hard to accept the fact that in a must win game for a team that is having trouble scoring, the leading scorer sits on the bench for the first 60 minutes.

    Looking back, I kind of wish Houston had won last week so the game didn’t mean anything for the U. Then Hackworth could have played Albright for his last game.

    It was nice to see that Jack learned his lesson from the DC game and grabbed the ball out of the net and put put it on the center spot.

    • Great that Jack learned that lesson, but he still has a lot to learn… I’m sick of his f’ing attitude on the pitch. (yes I know he is young, but he drives me insane)
      – Walking when the ball doesn’t go right to him. He was a late sub and walked around more than anyone else on the pitch yesterday… show some freaking hustle. Attack their D and force a turnover. Do something!
      – Walking back, still offsides and completely useless after he loses the ball, long after the other team is counterattacking. 136 was screaming at him to get his ass back onsides.
      – Anytime he was subbed out all year, he never went to meet his teammate coming in. He stormed off the pitch and went right to the bench pissed that Hackworth pulled him…
      Is he worth keeping around? Definitely. But he better learn to respect his teammates and hustle. I would love to know what people like LeToux, Casey, and Williams think of his attitude.

      • UnitedPenn13 says:

        I totally agree with you on Jack’s attitude. He’s been acting like a spoiled child all season. When the other team has the ball he prances around putting quasi pressure on the opponent. He can forget getting another call up from Klinsmann unless he changes his attitude and work rate. Klinsmann expects every player to pressure the other team, not just the defense.

  10. Gutsy effort. Can’t wait until next year. Already assessing our roster for 2014 somewhat pragmatically. We won’t re-sign Kleberson. Torres late season cameos must be for showcasing purposes because we all know how Coach Hack feels about his value on the pitch. But being pragmatic you have to assume the core of this team returns. We have assets as well. No cash (of course) but high draft picks.
    So assuming EVERYONE else is back what position do we target with our draft picks?
    What is Zach Pfeffer’s natural position. What position is he playing in Germany right now? Let’s bring him home!

  11. A CB so we can move Okugo into the midfield. A true LB. Draft a defender or 2 for depth. A playmaker in the midfield if we don’t believe Farfan can do the job (I’m not swayed either way yet). And hope that Hackworth has learned some lessons in his first year as a head coach.

  12. What a complete mess?! Hackworth needs to be fired just for that kitchen sink display. Awful. He has been out managed at everyturn. I don’t know what the F/O will do but he needs to be fired. Hackworth has failed to aquire the right players the team needs, and to play the players he has in the right way. Its time to get a real, proven manager to lead this team. Its also time for the ownership group to start spending money on better quality players. These guys were out matched.

    • My question is can you think of a good coach who plays the brand of soccer we’ve been promised by the FO, who is out of work, who would be willing to come to Philly? And do you trust the FO to buck up and pay for that coach?

      • Sigi Schmid is supposed to be on a “win in the playoffs or else” mandate up in Seattle. If he shakes loose, the Union should be interested.
        Also, Frank Yallop should be available (unless I missed him signing somewhere). Not sure what his style is, but he certainly seems to know how to win in MLS. He’d be worth a look, too.

    • I agree that Hackworth hasn’t done a good enough job with lineup choices, substitutions and personnel selection, but I can’t fault him entirely for the team’s failures. When I look at this roster it screams mediocre. We have loads of young talent and older guys with experience who are nearing the end of the road, with very little in between. This was his first full season as manager, and I think his learning curve was steep. I’ll give him one more season to acquire the players he needs, and if he either fails to do that or continues to make the questionable decisions that failed him this year then he needs to be dismissed.

  13. No I don’t think that the F/O will pay the money. I don’t know enough managers to give a name. However, I would prefere someone that is already in MLS. MLS is a league of its own with very Byzantine rules and politics. As such, a successful manager needs to understand the league and have experience managing here. Maybe they can poach a coach from another team.

  14. Well it’s over for this year. Enjoyable game with inconsistent officiating but that’s what we get in the MLS. The team is lacking creativity in the middle and we do not have that designated player that the other teams seem to be able to find and sign. Our Brazilians were fun to watch both for their skills and creativity. Mr. center referee seemed to enjoy protecting Zushi and allowed him to play at will and overlooking most of his shenanigans. It’s difficult to maintain the attack when it is 12 on 11.

  15. First of all. Hack needs to go. As much as we all loved the Roger Torres sub, it wasn’t a good one. Very few minutes all year and then throw him on in desperation. In addition you hand the start to Hoppenot in a must win. Nice Hack! So who replaces Hack? Frank Yallop is available. I’ve been told he works well on a budget too. I’m personally pulling for Paunovic who’s currently coaching the Serbian U18s. Outside of those two I really can’t think of anyone else who would fit the bill of having MLS experience and be available.

  16. Can we bring back Valdez now? Him and Park in the back would be boss, and we can push Okugo up to MF. Get rid of Carroll please, he makes great defensive plays but he is a turnover machine…

    • Valdez is gone until at least after the WC. But we’ll find out for sure in January. on the flip side, we’ll stand to make a chunk of money if he stays in Columbia.

  17. Frank Yallop would be a great add. He knows how to win in MLS and has done so without big budgets. Players love him. Yallop has a relationship with Sackiewicz as he played and was later an assistant coach in Tampa when Sak was the GM there in the early days of the league.

    That said, I think the front office gives Hack another year. I agree with many here who question his tactics and lineup choices, but the front office (from those I have talked to) at least publicly speaking seem to be of the mindset that he just didn’t have enough talent to work with and will give him another year to improve the roster. In the end, like many of us, they think this team was about as much as it could be based on who it had.

    • Unfortunately, I agree. The “front office” will not fire him. However, whose fault is it that Hackworth doesn’t have the players he needs to win? The F/O’s fault. Also, Hackworth’s lack of success can’t be blamed on a lack luster roster. He’s decisions through the season contributed to their lack of success.

    • He didn’t have enough talent to work with, but he only made matters worse by playing Cruz every. single. week. and taking nearly the entire season to figure out that Daniel is worthless.

      Anyway, I’ll be stunned if the team actually brings in players that present a significant upgrade. More likely the second coming of Porfirio Lopez, but I guess I’ll hold out some slim hope that they get lucky. More realistic is a Fabinho-like contributor who at least gives us more options.

      • Yeah, judging from how they have been behaving for four seasons now, it is unlikely that their would be a much needed change. It seems like they are hording the cash. Its not coming back into the team.

      • Best case scenario is a Paunovic-type. Doesn’t have to be an ex-superstar, but a veteran who knows how to orchestrate the attack.

  18. There is no possible way that Hack is fired. 0% chance. The FO and Hackworth are completely on the same page as far as I can tell. Sack is certainly NOT going to fire Hack and hire an experienced MLS coach. It wouldn’t make sense financially for the team. They will stay the course with John Hackworth, Brian Carroll…..and Okugo at CB by the way. Any other conjecture is unrealistic in my opinion.

    • Right, and the recent article appearing on this site questioning whether Hack should be fired can be re-posted a year from it’s publication date, with a few player names changed asking the same question. This is what I predict/expect in 11 months from now.

  19. Much to my dismay, Hack will be back next year, so we can expect more of the same. What was really upsetting about this game is we finally saw what it was like to see Okugo pushed up to DM. Now, it could have been Soumare back there this whole time with BC on the bench. This would have allowed us to push Fabhino up to mid where he can create more service into the box. We also finally got a taste to see what an attacking midfielder is like that can creatively push the ball forward these last few games and its infuriating that more than half the season was wasted on Daniel in that position. Also, I still don’t see how you start Cruz over Le2 in a game of this caliber. Starting Hopp was clearly a mistake as well. Not a Hack fan, he is out of his league and has been out coached for most of the season, which is why we finish in 7th place, below middle of the pack.

    • 100% agree. The Cruz and Daniel addiction was positively baffling. And Hoppenot is severely limited. I don’t want to watch another season of him charging on the pitch in the 65th minute to skewer the match with his trademark profligacy and tunnel vision.

    • I understand not starting Seba if he was not 100% and Hack was afraid he’d have to get pulled after 15-30 minutes.

    • I’m not a Hack fan either, but I have to admit that I was relieved to just see some change for this game. I would agree that the XI he put on the field was not the Best XI, but clearly what he’s been doing has not worked, so he tried something different. I would’ve gone to the 4-3-3 along time ago, with Jack in for Hop and Le Toux in for Cruz. I was begging for change back in July and August, and my biggest concern for him moving forward is that he lacks that creative instinct to make the key change either tactically or personnel-wise.

  20. Southside Johnny says:

    If I wasn’t so steamed over JackMac not starting I would have really enjoyed the first half. Antoine turned in another exuberant but foolish performance capped by ignoring his mark, Zusi, to ball watch while he scored. Heroic performances by all left me feeling so bad for a team who had to play a season so handicapped by poor coaching. After his trademark whining about bad calls post game, the Hack said, “So maybe it was a season of what ifs.” Yeah. Like what if this team had a good coach.

  21. Gotta echo the sentiment that there is no chance Hack gets fired. Also, I don’t see any pickups this offseason besides through the draft and Kassel/fabinho type signings. Not much hope for us under this f/o

  22. It was a disappointing season but, there are many positives to take in also. I will be furious if Brian Carroll is the captain next year. I can pick three others that are more deserving of the C. Carroll can be a nice late defensive sub not in the starting 11.

  23. We have several high draft choices + Torres and Kleberson salaries…presumably. That’s a nice chunk of change! Just give me one legit signing and one legit prospect from the draft and I’ll be satisfied. Expecting this group (our coach, GM, and FO) to do anything more is a pipe dream.

    • You will get three signings. Not one will be legit. The highest-paid player will make $265,000 per year. His position will be defensive midfield. He will be described, variously, as “creative,” “a good guy in the locker room,” “a professional,” “ready to battle for a spot in the starting XI,” and “excited to be in Philadelphia.” You will search for his highlights, and find them, and they will consist of him running with the ball, crossing the ball to unseen teammates, three stepover fakes and a Cruyff turn. You will learn that he last scored a goal in 2005 playing for his country in a friendly against Cyprus. He will play a total of seventy-two minutes in 2014 as the team limps to a sixth-place finish in the East.
      The other two signings will be cut before the season starts.

      • 265,000 can get you a Jordan Harvey or an Andrew Jacobson or any number of solid performer who will be a solid player and an instant upgrade to whatever position he plays.

  24. John O'Donnell says:

    So when it’s all said an done, those two last 98min. ties did us in. The lost 4 points would of let us finish in the 5th spot.

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