Match Report

Match report: Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The Philadelphia Union traveled to Kansas City and faced Sporting KC in what was a fairly pedestrian game for 90-some minutes. A wild few minutes of injury time salvaged a point for the Union, as a 19th-minute goal by Sporting’s Rémi Walter was canceled out by a 95th-minute stunner from Alejandro Bedoya.

A sold-out Children Mercy’s Park crowd enjoyed a warm and clear night at the start of the game, which saw the Union playing their fourth match in twelve nights. Head coach Jim Curtin fielded a vastly different lineup than in the Union’s first three matches.

Oliver Semmle started between the goalposts for the third straight game as Andre Blake continues to recover from a groin injury. Damion Lowe and Jack Elliott centered the back four, while Kai Wagner was given a rest as Nathan Harriel started at left back and Olivier Mbaizo at right back.

José Martínez returned to the starting lineup to anchor the midfield diamond. Jack McGlynn returned on the left of the midfield, while Jesús Bueno slotted in at the right. Jeremey Rafanello was given his first MLS start at the tip of the diamond.

Quinn Sullivan moved up front and started alongside Chris Donovan at striker. The multitude of changes were necessitated by the 120 minutes plus injury time played on Tuesday and the specter of a home match in just three days against a tough Pachuca team.

Sporting dominated the first half

The home side started the game by probing Philadelphia’s defense, focusing on the Union’s left flank. Semmle was called on to make his first save early, in the third minute, on a strike from Johnny Russell after he got around Lowe. A few minutes later, Semmle smothered another shot as Alan Pulido tried to find Erik Thommy in the box.

The Union had its first sustained possession in the eighth minute, but it was short-lived. The team struggled throughout the first half to find any kind of rhythm, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the shuffled line-up failed to gel.

Sporting continued to dominate on the ball, and the Union were correctly saved by the offside flag—though the play again showed the ease with which Sporting found holes in the Union midfield and defense.

The Union had a moment in the attacking third of Sporting when Martínez struck a hard shot from distance but went down after taking a knock to his knee on the follow-through—perhaps foreshadowing what was to follow.

Another Sporting attack down the Union’s left flank saw a cross blocked into the path of Martínez, who stumbled trying to get his boot to the ball and left it in the path of an onrushing Walter who scored from 20 yards out in the 19th minute. Martínez remained down briefly and was limping slightly as he returned to play.

The Union did not threaten much in the first half, as Rafanello struggled to connect the midfield with his forwards. Instead, Sporting looked like the team the Union normally strive to be, as the KC forwards kept the Union on their heels. On the other half of play, the Union failed to create much pressure on Sporting.

Another defensive lapse by the Union in the 45th minute saw Semmle parry a nice shot, but he left the rebound for Russell who shot wide right. Sporting created few chances in the first half, despite dominating possession. However, they had four shots on goal to the Union’s zero.

Despite the poor play, the Union left the field at half only down one goal.

Second-half recovery for the Union

The second half started with three Union substitutions—Dániel Gazdag replacing Jeremy Rafanello, Kai Wagner coming in for Mbaizo, and Bedoya for Martínez. Harriel moved to right back with the introduction of Wagner, Bueno moved to the base of the diamond, and Bedoya moved into the right side of the midfield.

The Union started the second half better with a bit more pressure up front, but chances were still scarce. Bedoya was first in the book for either team as he tackled Walter from behind in the 48th minute.

It took a few minutes for the new lineup to get in sync.

The 51st minute saw McGlynn with a nice defensive takeaway, but Gazdag was shouldered off the pass and Sporting took the ball the other way. At the other end moments later in the 54th minute, Bedoya took a left-footed shot from the corner of the 18-yard box but got no power behind it and Melia made an easy save.

A minute later, in the Union’s best opportunity of the game to that point, Gazdag took a pass on the half-volley and rifled a shot just wide left. The Union kept the pressure on as Sullivan crossed a nice ball that was shuffled out by a defender off a Union player for a goal kick. A minute later, Mikael Uhre came on for Donovan.

Lowe saw himself booked for a hard challenge on Russell in the 58th minute. The resulting free kick was headed out by Elliott for a corner, who also dealt with the resulting corner. Sporting kept the pressure on in the box but couldn’t get off a clean shot.

During a Sporting corner minutes later, referee Rafael Bonilla missed an elbow from Andreu Fontàs into what appeared to be Bueno’s neck, who went down in the six-yard box. This resulted in a Russell header on goal, which saw Lowe clear off the line with a header of his own.

The Union tried to make some chances on the counterattack, but a pass was too far for Uhre and Melia handled it without any hassle. The Union had a rare set piece in the 72nd minute after a foul by Daniel Rosero on Uhre, but the resulting Wagner free kick was headed high and out of play by Harriel.

The Union continued to pressure Sporting and were nearly rewarded when a rushing Bedoya forced Tim Liebold to hit a clearance off his own crossbar. Going the other way, a sliding tackle by Jacob Davis resulted in the ball making its way to Russel—who dribbled to the near post only to have Semmle smother his shot.

As the game entered the final minutes, the Union grew more desperate and a cross by Uhre in the 90th minute was swatted away by Melia before Anderson could get to it. Seconds later, a Sullivan free kick found Anderson’s head who knocked it just wide of the post. The Union continued to press, and in injury time Gazdag had a penalty appeal brushed away after another Uhre cross from the left side.

The Union finally found the tying goal, but not without some controversy. A ball was played over the sideline off the foot of Uhre, though Bonilla indicated a Union throw-in. The resulting play led to a corner kick, which Melia parried away. The ball fell right in front of Bedoya who volleyed the ball into the far corner of the goal in the 95th minute.

The game continued for another two minutes, including another Sporting corner, before the final whistle. Sporting manager Peter Vermes remonstrated to the officials at midfield but to no avail.

Despite a poor start and a controversial ending, the Union walked away with a point.

Three Points

Jim Curtin vs Peter Vermes – The two longest-tenured MLS coaches faced off for the ninth time in MLS play. Curtin maintained his slight edge with three wins but Vermes will surely feel Sporting deserved a win on the night.

Quinn Sullivan – Apple TV’s pre-game show rightly praised Sullivan, who has had a stellar start to the season. However, he was not great (though not bad) on the night as a striker and remains more effective as an attacking midfielder. Let’s play him there.

The left side of things – With Wagner and Glesnes getting some deserved rest, Harriel filled at left-back for the ninth time in his career. Lowe took Elliott’s normal left-back position as Elliott moved over to the right. Sporting took full advantage of this makeshift line in the first half, continuously driving down the right to attack the Union’s left flank. Sporting’s one goal came down the left flank. Is Wagner irreplaceable at left-back?


Philadelphia Union (4-4-2)
Oliver Semmle, Jack Elliott, Damion Lowe, Nathan Harriel, Olivier Mbaizo (Kai Wagner), José Martínez (Alejandro Bedoya 46’), Jesús Bueno, Jack McGlynn (Markus Anderson 83’), Jeremy Rafanello (Dániel Gazdag 46’), Quinn Sullivan, Chris Donovan (Mikael Uhre 57’)

Unused Subs: Andrew Rick, Jakob Glesnes, Matt Real, Tai Baribo

Sporting KC (4-3-3)
Tim Melia, Jacob Davis, Daniel Rosero, Andreu Fontàs, Tim Leibold, Erik Thommy (Memo Rodriguez 80’), Nemanja Radoja, Rémi Walter, Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido (William Agada 80’), Daniel Salloi (Stephen Afrifa 87’)

Unused subs: John Pulskamp, Robert Voloder, Robert Castellanos, Zorhan Bassong, Felipe Hernández, Alenis Vargas

Scoring Summary
KS – Rémi Walter 19’
PHL – Alejandro Bedoya 90+5’

Discipline Summary
PHL – Bedoya (Yellow Card, 48′ – Foul)
PHI – Lowe (Yellow Card, 58′ – Foul)
KS – Russell (Yellow Card, 93′ – Foul)

Rafael Bonilla – Referee


  1. A tie in KC is a good result. Especially since they saved it in stoppage time. Hopefully Martinez recovers by Tuesday.

  2. What a rollercoaster. As the second half was winding down, texted to a buddy that I didnt know what was worse, the U’s play or that we were watching it. Though tired legs and necessarily piecemeal lineup, remains shocking how often this team does things you would find on a rec team of 10 year olds including passing directly to the other team, booting the ball downfield to no one, and waiting on the pass rather than meeting the ball. That being said I cackled my butt off at the tying goal and the blond woman flipping the birds at Bedoya was a delicious rewind and pause moment.

    I guess this makes up for the Super Bowl, right…

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    A lucky point but obviously impacted by the squad rotation. Unfortunately, even the team playing in the second half looked disjointed and out of sync. Time after time either a pass was made to where a player would have been if they were making a run but they weren’t running or vice versa.
    And while the Union clearly benefited from a poor call on the throw-in before the goal, I have to question if the ref even knew the new rules. When Martinez needed treatment after the KC goal, he was back on in less than a minute rather than being off the field for the required 2 minutes. And none of the KC players being subbed went off the field in a timely manner (i.e. 10 seconds), they all jogged across the field in around 30 seconds. But none of the subs were subsequently required to wait a minute before coming on.

    • Chris Turk says:

      Agree with you on all points, Andy!

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      The U benefited from the Soccer gods. Because I think Gazdag definitely had a penalty claim. And that elbow was a straight red. It was intentional.

    • John P. O'Donnell says:

      The new rules are postponed until the lockout is over. The only thing they are doing now is the clock in stadium with extra time being shown.

    • Gruncle Bob says:

      The league initially suspended the anti-time wasting rules because of the ref strike. Have they been reinstated?

    • SoccerDad says:

      Thought I read in an Athletic article that those new rules were not going into effect until the labor situation was cleared up.

  4. Chris Gibbons says:

    A point on the road with a bunch of backups in between continental midweek play? Those are the only facts that matter – onward.

  5. I totally approve of the way Jim handled the personnel for this game. He’s finally learned not to beat the players into the ground.

    Unfortunately the starters didn’t gel at all and it was not fun to watch. Kai Wagner is almost irreplaceable, but Matt Real has always turned in solid shifts, and I would give him the chance next time rather than inverting Harriel. And the guy who is truly irreplaceable on this team right now, due to lack of depth, is Daniel Gazdag. (Maybe the Vasquez signing will change that?…)

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I agree. Start Real at left back but maybe Harriel for McGlynn. Jack looked completely wiped. I think he and Quinn need a break.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Unfortunately they are likely to be without Gazdag (and several others) for the Portland game later this month as well as for between 3 and 8 games in June and July during EURO 2024.

    • John P. O'Donnell says:

      Vasquez is signed to Union II, not the first team.

    • I think we take Gazdag for granted. His defensive work rate often goes unnoticed, but it was clear in the first half that they were missing him.

  6. Great article. Thanks!

    Nice to see Bedoya score like that and steal a point on the road, but to see KC fans giving him the finger and even throwing stuff at him was just revolting and should be punished by MLS. And MLS should be punished for dissing the US Open Cup. It’s getting harder and harder to remain faithful, and aren’t we all tired by the BS in Miami by now?

    And the snow bowl in Salt Lake…. Just wow!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Throwing stuff, yes. Giving him the finger, no. If anything the Union should be the ones punished there for taunting the fans. Why go up to the supporters section to celebrate?

      • Tim Herring says:

        Why? Because that drama draws attention away from infuriating mediocrity.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        How does celebrating in front of the opposing supporters at their stadium draw attention away from anything? It’s just rude of the team and they deserve to be derided for it.

    • The entire team celebrated directly at the supporters section. I found it hilarious, you almost never see that at any level

  7. The Choppet says:

    In two weeks this team has already logged four games, 30 minutes of extra time and travel to Costa Rica and Kansas City. Mustering a point out of that against a healthy side in thier home opener is a gutty achievement. And they did it without Blake and with a heavily rotated 11. Bravo.

  8. Tim Herring says:

    The PU continues their start of season with consistent infuriating mediocrity as in so many seasons before. Meanwhile, in other news of low-quality futbol, the LAFC played RSL in an absolutely absurd match in snow/near blizzard conditions — at the stadium not of LAFC but of RSL. Does not the MLS ownership know that this is still winter season, through March 19 this year? Do they not know that an 8- to 9-month is absurd in any sport? Of course they know both of those things! However, they value the value of short/mid-term money/profits over the value of long-term quality and profits in this sport. What an absolute disgrace.

  9. I had a couple conflicts preventing me from watching this one. The obvious is I don’t have MLS package this season. Also, prioritized Flyers over radio broadcast. The reason I’m reporting is, I was able to enjoy a condensed match on TV without spoilers. I was surprised to get an MLB-length condensed match over 5 mins. I almost gave up as I expected the final whistle as the stoppage time was expiring. I was genuinely shocked by that goal, hours later, like you all were. Spared the dreck of most of the match.

    Finally, good write up on the game summary. This changeover in talent hasn’t missed a beat.

  10. Well that was ugly and beautiful all at the same time! Ugly through most of the match then beautiful at the end! I have no problem with the team posting up in front of the opposing fans. The throwing things is awful. The fingers are fine, that’s not going to hurt someone! Didn’t see if any cans or bottles made it to the field but throwing stuff is just reducing your team the lowest level! That’s a smash and grab at the end! Great road point even though the overall product was not good. This schedule is just crap. Far too many games jammed in already! Curtin rotates the team and has to. They’re not gonna look great with all the changes. It’s going to be that way till everyone figures out how to play together and what they are responsible for on the pitch. We wanted a team that would compete at the top of the league and this is the growing pains of being there. Hope to see you all on Tuesday! Thanks Chris for being part of the PSP staff! Keep up the good work!

  11. Poo Pourri says:

    The irony of this game was that the U pretty much looked ragged and outclassed until the end, but still could have walked away with all 3:

    They scored when Martinez stepped on the ball while attempting to clear and injured himself . Really didn’t do much else while dominating.

    Sully had one chalked off because Bueno jumped for a ball the defender didn’t.

    Anderson missed a gimme header
    They put a clearance off their own crossbar.

    Fortunately; the refs blew an easy call that led to the game tier.

    Well worth sticking this one out for the double bird / beer shower. /. Peter’s purple faces.

  12. 2 First : Wild finish. I’m all for these refs being here which is allowing the league to carry on… but ‘they’ need to resolve this strike. The blown call which trickles down to Union gol is really bad.
    I was berating Lowe for the terrible first touch on Quinn’s cheeky pass dear lord. Come on sir.
    -1 First : Just too sloppy. Some genuine moments that could have been magic — but errant touches or passes dissolved those moments like sugar in water.
    FIRST: Big Jim sporting the jacket and tie?
    SECOND: Sullivan dynamic and creative in that midfield role so Big Jim starts him up top. Can’t figure it. No really… can’t figure the thinking there.
    THIRD: starting lineup. Rafanello. Harriel. Donovan. Sullivan. McGlynn. Meanwhile in Florida… Inter fielded 40% of Barcelona’s starting lineup as recently as 2019. Portland Timbers in discussion to bring $15,000,000 striker Berterame from CF Monterrey
    It’s hard to resign yourself to knowing there is likely no longer a pathway to win MLS Cup… at all. EVER in the current Inion iteration
    That said— I’ll take Union starting lineup over Miami’s everyday. David Beckham can suck a nut through a straw. There is a fine line of resentment I walk with Jay Sugarman.

    FOURTH: The non—shoulder check by Gazdag in 52nd min was fucking egregious. What is that? Is that birthday cake brain? Is that MLS EFFECT?

    The left footed shot by Bedoya in 53rd… has to be a gol.. my 14 yr old is allowed to scuff that. Not him. Unacceptable…. and in closing — I guess Alejandro is ABSOLVED after all. A good point tonight despite the difficulty.

    • Chris Turk says:

      El Pachy –
      Sloppiness – partly the shuffled line-up, no?
      Sullivan – agree 100% He needs to play as an attacking midfielder.
      Sugarman – I think he tries. He does not (according to Forbes, Wikipedia, etc.) have the resources of a Tepper, Blank, Kraft, or Beckham’s partners.
      Shoulder-check – I can’t believe that wasn’t called.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      You didn’t even mention the red card elbow to the face…
      Personally, I just hope we don’t burn the kids out with so many minutes so early. Jack McG looked tired.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    If that game is played with a full Union squad on full rest, what’s the score? I think the Union get a few and it’s not close. I’m biased sure, but KC didn’t do much for me, especially in the second half. Regardless, a point given the circumstances is fine with me.
    We all have to remember the missed throw in call, that lead to the corner, that lead to the goal, when we get paid back at some point this year.
    Peter Vermes reminds me of Bruce Arena with the incessant whining he does all game.

    • Chris Turk says:

      OMW – I think it is 2-1 Union. Maybe 3-1.
      Isn’t the missed throw-in call a make up for all the past calls against us? 😉 We should be even now…

  14. Chris Turk, Thank you! Everyone has already commented on the game so I won’t. Just want to say thanks to you and the other editors/writers for keeping this alive.

  15. this might have been one of Curtins best jobs. Wholesale but not crazy change. Multiple subs, early on. Smart defensive shape. Well done.
    Wow what happens in Wagner is hurt or gone for a period. Sullivan is definitely better at mid, but might’ve been hamstrung by having Rafanello and the Unions overall game strategy.
    Defense looks shaky to me still to start the year. Most of it seems to be knowing or feeling when to press a man vs when not to get too high too early.
    What the heck is going on with Baribo, does anyone know? If he can’t get in a game like this…. Donovan needs to be upgraded at some point. Anderson looks okay but it’s early.

    • Chris Turk says:

      Re: Baribo – see my forthcoming write-up of the pre-CONCACAF press conference.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I’m seeing good stuff from Anderson. Energy. Press. Getting to the right spots. Once he gets over the new guy nerves and dials in the finishing, he will be a really good addition.

      • Chris Turk says:

        The team really seems to like Anderson. Not saying they don’t like Baribo, but Uhre spoke highly of Anderson, and Curtin has had plenty of good things to say over the last 3 weeks.

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