U in Review — Matchday 18: Sporting Versus Union

After a convincing home victory against New England, the Philadelphia Union looked for a result in America’s Heartland, in an effort to draw closer to a playoff position.

Since the beginning of May, the Union have garnered an impressive 6 wins and 18 points, placing them among pretty good company. Just three other Major League Soccer clubs have a better record, with Sporting Kansas City being one of them.

An impressive run of form has been left null by a dire start to the current campaign, as the Union currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference table, and 6 points behind Columbus, who occupy the sixth and final playoff position.

Unbeaten in their last two matches, the Union’s Thursday night clash against the Western Conference co-leader offered a perfect midseason assessment of Jim Curtin’s side.

FIRST HALF 

If you read today’s U in Preview, then you might not be surprised by the Union’s rocky first half. From start to finish the Union were on their toes, dug in behind the ball.

A lone Union counter, which saw Ilsinho’s shot hit the side netting, was overshadowed by a series of Sporting chances.

Sporting, who were in total control of possession (68.7), generated a plethora of goal scoring opportunities. John McCarthy was peppered by the Sporting attack force, who totaled 10 shots through the first 45′.

McCarthy was up for the challenge early on, however.

McCarthy, who was filling in for Andre Blake away on international assignment, made several daring saves, including a reactionary save in the 28′ minute that thwarted a Daniel Salloi dead-ball and arguably a goal.

Another bright spot for the Union was defender, Jack Elliot, who was listed as “questionable” heading into the match.

Elliot was a thorn in Sporting’s side in the first half, curbing the Kansas City attack time after time again. His instinctual header in the 24′ minute prevented another potential Salloi belter from the top of the box.

Salloi was everywhere in the first half, and he nearly scored on a “cross” that left McCarthy helpless, as the ball flew over his head and caromed off the top of the crossbar.

If it weren’t for McCarthy, Elliot, and the crossbar, the Hungarian forward may very well have had a first half hat trick.

SECOND HALF

It took Sporting just four minutes into the second half to get on the board. Diego Rubio’s curling effort was no match for a sprawling John McCarthy.

Keeping with the first 45′ minutes, Sporting were on the ball for much of the second half, which prevented the Union from creating much at all in the attacking third.

Benny Feilhaber gifted the Union a penalty, including the visitors’ only legitimate shoring chance, when he brought down CJ Sapong in the 65′ minute. Referee Ricardo Salazar hesitated, at first, but pointed to the spot in the end.

It was the right call, as Sapong was inside the box when he was tripped up by Feilhaber.

Much to the chagrin of some Union fans, Sapong did not take the spot kick. Instead, it was Roland Alberg, who finished as cooly and calmly as you’d like, to level the score at one a piece.

Sapong is currently on 9 goals this season, which is tied for his career high. A goal would have seen the forward break into double digits, and break his record in front of the thousands of fans who once sung his name week in, week out.

Numerous efforts on goal, including those had by a certain Latif Blessing, were snuffed by McCarthy, who stood on his (expletive) ((more expletives)) head throughout the remainder of the second half, and really the entire match.

It was a less than inspiring match collectively from the Union, but the heroics of a few were enough in the end to earn an impressive point on the road, at the fortress that is Children’s Mercy Park.

Here’s an updated look at the table, following the Union’s 1-1 draw in Kansas City:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 11.01.18 PM.png

Taking home the honor of this week’s UnionFanTV Lad of the Match is John McCarthy. This one was a no brainer (pun intended).  

Next up on the Philadelphia Union’s fixture list is a Summer friendly against English Premier League outfit, Swansea City Football Club. They’ll enjoy a brief, but much needed break, before hosting the Swans at Talen Energy Stadium on July 15.

Lookout for our comprehensive match preview of the upcoming friendly against the visiting Welsh side. 

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