Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 3-1 Sporting Kansas City

Photo: Earl Gardner

With the lights brightest, Philadelphia Union played their best since MLS resumed play, advancing to the semifinals of the MLS is Back Tournament. When the final whistle blew, the Union had seen out a 3-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City in Orlando

The Union opened with three first half goals, with forward Sergio Santos earning a brace. Sporting earned a consolation— a glimmer of hope— in the dying moments of the first half, but a professional performance from Philadelphia saw the second half go without a goal.

The win offers a bit of bittersweet revenge for Philadelphia. In 2015, Sporting handed Curtin and the Union their second of three U.S. Open Cup Final defeats. Former KC forward Krisztian Nemeth cancelled Sébastien Le Toux’s opening goal, and the visitors eked out a win in penalties at what is now Subaru Park.

Union head coach Jim Curtin made no changes to a side whose narrow 1-0 win over New England Revolution saw Philadelphia survive the first knockout round of the tournament.

Sporting advanced by an even thinner margin, sending Vancouver Whitecaps home by penalties. Kansas City head coach and South Jersey native Peter Vermes conversely made three changes to his starting 11.

Play opened resembling something closer to swordplay than soccer. The movement was plodding, methodical with each side fearing the exposure that may come with an attack. One harmless shot on goal came from the game’s first 20 minutes of action. It was the calm.

The first strike was swift, and the second— concussive.

Philadelphia was deliberate, building forward without apparent menace. In the final third, right back Ray Gaddis centered a ball to Santos. Union captain Alejandro Bedoya made a direct, sprinting run through the Kansas City defense to receive his teammate’s pass. With only goalkeeper Tim Melia to beat, Bedoya centered a pass to Jamiro Monteiro. The No. 10 knocked the ball into the empty net with ease in the 24th minute.

Just two minutes later, Philadelphia found their second.

Sporting inexplicably committed nearly every player forward on a free kick in the Union’s half. A bad touch came from Kansas City, and Santos picked up the ball. In his own half, Santos had nothing but grass in front of him. The fleet-footed forward pulled away and chipped the onrushing Melia for his first goal of the game.

The Brazilian’s second score came in the 39th minute. Midfielder Brenden Aaronson’s sublime pass curled across Sporting’s back line and found the foot of Santos. With time, he coolly slid the Union’s third of the night home.

But Kansas City landed a blow of their own during stoppage time of the first half.

Forward Alan Pulido, who was signed for $9.5 million from Liga MX side Chivas before the season, switched play from about 40 yards from goal. Instantly the Mexican international started a run that finished with a finish of his own, heading home a return cross for  Sporting’s first goal of the match.

Looking to capitalize on the energy, Vermes introduced two new players at the half. Curtin was forced to respond in the 53rd minute as Santos was replaced by his countryman Ilsinho due to injury.

While the Union absorbed the trailing side’s second half pressure, Philadelphia wouldn’t succumb.

Sporting’s Johnny Russell put home their only goal of their second half on a rebound, but the Scottish winger was ruled off after starting play behind the end line.

The Union predictably defended while frustrating a side chasing the game  as the second half went scoreless.

As the first team to advance, the Union will await their semifinal opponent. They’ll face the winner of New York City FC vs. Portland Timbers next Wednesday, Aug. 5. Kickoff on FS1 will be at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Three Points
  • A quality win. The Union’s best performance was also their best win of the young season. While this match doesn’t count toward regular season standings, Sporting Kansas City sit atop the Western Conference.
  • European teen. While the focus was on KC’s Gianluca Busio, it was another teen who looked more Europe-ready: Brenden Aaronson.
  • Three’s company. There’s no reason not to like center back Jakob Glesnes, but with the way Mark McKenzie and Jack Elliott are playing, he may not see the field anytime soon.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Raymon Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Mark McKenzie, Kai Wagner; José Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro (Anthony Fontana 86), Brenden Aaronson (Matt Real 86′); Kacper Przybylko (Andrew Wooten 71′), Sergio Santos (Ilsinho 53′)
Unused subs: Joe Bendik, Aurélien Collin, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Matej Oravec, Jack De Vries, Cole Turner, Michee Ngalina

Sporting Kansas City

Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Roberto Puncec, Graham Smith, Luis Martins (Amadou Dia HT); Ilie Sánchez (Felipe Hernandez 64′); Johnny Russell, Roger Espinoza (Cameron Duke 84′), Gianluca Busio (Gadi Kinda HT), Dániel Sallói  (Gerso 64′); Alan Pulido
Unused Subs: Richard Sánchez, Winston Reid, Matt Besler, Jaylin Lindsey, Wan Kuzain, Erik Hurtado, Tyler Freeman

Scoring summary
PHI: Jamiro Monteiro — 24′ (Alejandro Bedoya, Sergio Santos)
PHI: Sergio Santos — 26′
PHI: Sergio Santos — 39′ (Brenden Aaronson)
SKC: Alan Pulio — 45’+1′ (Johnny Russell)

Disciplinary summary
PHI: José Martinez — 25′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Jack Elliott — 53′ (unsporting behavior)
SKC: Gerso — 71′ (unsporting behavior)


  1. Ayyyyyyyyyy!!!
    We got it done. Solid performance. Man, this team is gelling. We have a date with the homeless team from NY next week unless they get bumped off this weekend

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    3 really great goals, especially the run from Santos on the 2nd and the pass from Aaronson on the 3rd!
    Still need to work a little on possession. Also, would like to see fewer them allow fewer shots against (although many were not quality shots).

  3. “But ray don’t score. But ray don’t get up in the a’tack.”
    That’s right…. not letting it go away. Can we please accept Raymond Gaddis for what he is? A superb defender. The guy is worthy of your respect and for 5 games has been arguably the most consistent player on the field.
    Otherwise…. well done boys. At this point just go on ahead and win the thing.

    • The funny thing is I actually agree, and thought he played well. But how easily we forget he was the defender that let Pulido get behind him for their goal?

      Gaddis has gotten better yes, but wow he also has 9 lives.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Ray has made himself more than just an excellent defender.
      He will never be an Ilsinho or a Wagner. But in the last two or so years he has become more than just a pool table bumper wall in passing triangles.
      Consider his role in the buildup to the first goal. He picked the proper vertex of the triangle, Santos, and delivered the competently weighted and timed ball on the carpet that allowed Santos to find Bedoya’s run. If the delivery or the pace is wrong, Bedoya is off before Santos finds him.
      Gaddis has had lots of practice out on the right flank in the offensive third with Bedoya and Ilsinho in games. And we see nothing of practices. He has learned and will continue to learn.
      He’s better offensively than we realize, even if he does not have spectacular virtuosity.

    • I mean you can act like the past hasn’t happened if you want, but I won’t. Yeah Ray has played well well. He’s gotten up and down the field. He’s made runs this years he hasn’t made in any of his previous years. Good job. Where was it for 6-7 years of his career? Look kudos to Ray. I won’t even argue he should be part of the hall of fame. But to act like Ray didn’t get forward and was horrible with the ball at his feet is rewriting history. You’re thumbing your nose at people because in one tournament of a restart to a season, Ray has finally shown some offensive gumption? Sell that shit somewhere else. I at least haven’t lost my memory.

      • Incorrect.
        I don’t give a rip about his offensive contribution. I’m ‘thumbing the nose’ as you say at people who undervalue his defensive contribution because he doesn’t excel offensively enough for them. That’s the point. He defends. Very very well. In this league lock down defending is a blue comet and just as rare. Period. End of story.
        I want people to commend him for what he is not what he ‘isn’t.’ I’m sick of the ‘yeah but.’ The guy is untouchable in my opinion. An absolute rock of a player and human.

    • Ray did not, in fact, get up in the attack until the very later part of last season. And even then, not very well.

      But this season he’s really grown into the role. Very impressive from a veteran guy who’s always kinda done one thing. I didn’t think he had it in him.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        I think I noticed from the big Atlanta win last year, onward, his vast improvement in attack. Remember his contributions in the playoffs? He’s struggled for the better part of his career on offense, but there’s no question how solid he’s been defensively. I think the bottom line is this: Ray has done just enough on offense to cement his spot. I no longer feel that we need an upgrade. We’re doing just fine.

  4. Wracked Opinion says:

    A very nice, decisive victory!

    Hopefully they can continue the streak… 😀

    I’m going to focus solely on the positives this night.

    As for Gaddis, I definitely concur with “accepting him for what he is”.

    He surely isn’t the most skilled ball handler, but he runs a ton — every single match — and gets often gets involved with pushing forward… even beyond the midfielders… quite often for being a defender.

    Because of this, it seems he (the back line all) gets caught at times when having to hustle back and re-form.

    Some of this… and the defensive lapses… I chalk up to Curtin’s system and the Union’s aggressive style in using Ray and Wagner.

    But the adage “live by the sword: die by the sword” has truth, reality, plus merit for this club.

    Of all of the players, it seems that Gaddis is absolutely maximized… in terms of ability and effort… each match.

    Let’s see how far they can go.

    BTW, NOW seems a good time to gear up!

    Check out MLSSTOREdotcom, Discount Code: MLS49

  5. That was a bit harrowing through the second half, but a well deserved win. If Aaronson could shoot, he’d be one of the best players in this league. Great night for him and Santos. I’m hoping for better times ahead for Przbylko. I got some Jermain Jones vibes from El Bruno tonight. Just some deja watching him play. (That’s a good thing in my book.) Two more wins is all it will take… Come on you Union.

  6. Quality finishing from Santos! So nice to see that in front of goal. This seems like a true “tournament team” and we have a reasonable chance at doing this now. We’ll have a full 48 hours rest advantage on our semifinal opponents. Get past that and who knows? How fitting would it be if we played LAFC in the final, the last MLS game played (5 months ago), before the shutdown.

    • Tim Jones says:

      You may have more than 48.
      Go to the National Hurricane Center’s website and look at their interactive map of the expected track’s course, and the earliest reasonable arrival times for tropical storm force winds.
      Hurricane, or possibly Tropical Storm, Isias could potentially force postponements Saturday night in Orlando, it seems to me.
      If I am head groundskeeper trying to preserve two adjacent fields for two semis and then a final, I don’t want anyone playing on my surfaces during a deluge. And if I am a coach, I am objecting to playing games in 40-60 MPH sustained winds with higher gusts..
      A 24 hour postponement seems plausible.

  7. This is why I love tournaments. Like casinos, the odds to whatever teams are ‘the house’ pan out over time when playing a full season. Anything can happen, however, in a tournament. If we win the next two matches we face, we get:

    1) Our first piece of silverware,
    2) chunks of cash to put towards building the team and/or in players’ pockets in tight times, and
    3) our first CCL appearance, which is both fun and quality international experiences for the fans and great for the players to commercially market themselves in their short player career time to make it or break it in the sport.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      I was very very wrong about not taking the round of 16 and quarterfinals quite as seriously and looking to play guys like Real and de Vries and Ngalina. Kudos to Curtin on taking every game seriously and having this team motivated and hungry.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    Amazing to be able to say our striker who scored 15 goals last year, Kacper, had arguably his worse game of the tournament (and hasn’t played well really at all, minus the Miami game)… yet we won 3-1. Coming from someone like myself who’s been a Day 1 STH, that alone is just so satisfying. We really do have a team. A team that has a game plan and style of play that everyone has bought into. This is fun to watch. Two more!!!!

  9. Could not be happier with that win! Arrinson was great,Bruho is a beast,Santos can really move and shoot! I feel like Casper is just forcing the game. He will get there though! Great win!

    Just to circle back to the Gaddis comments, Ray is and always will be a great defender! His ability to learn and adapt to the team’s needs is his strength! He’s never been offensive minded,but has learned to be better than in years past. Much like LeToux he has had some tough times. And will join him on the ring of honor! Deservedly so!

  10. a million dollars is a pretty huge prize for the union to play for. I’m pretty sure Bedoya is the only player who makes more than a million on our team, with signings like wagner and el brujo making about a a quarter/third of a million. would love to give tanner a little bonus signing money!

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