Sporting KC defeated Philadelphia 2-0 Sunday in front of its home fans who anticipated the match all week.
Although, Sporting KC was able to come out of the game with a positive result, head coach, Peter Vermes felt that they had left a lot on the table and could have won the game by more than two goals.
“We did not play our best game today,” Vermes said. “I felt at times we found ourselves a little bit disorganized.”
It took awhile for Sporting KC to find their rhythm in the game, but once they were able to string together a few passes and build up the field, they would control the tempo for much of the first half. Philadelphia created the first chance of the game in the fifth minute when Marco Fabian collected the ball on the edge of the box and found himself, and only one defender in front of him. Fabian slipped and shot the ball wide right of the goal.
Sporting KC quickly took the goal kick and were instantly down the field on a long ball from Graham Zusi which found Johnny Russell streaking down the right side. Russell controlled the ball and sent a pass to Krisztian Nemeth who had his shot blocked and spilled right to 16-year-old phenom Gianluca Busio, who smartly took the contact to draw a penalty. Midfield Ilie Sanchez slotted in the penalty in the right bottom corner in the 11th minute to give Kansas City an early lead and allowed them to slow down the game.
Other than the penalty, Sporting KC struggled to generate many convincing chances for the rest of the first half. Philadelphia had many opportunities to bring the game back on their terms before the half, but were unable to take advantage of golden chances. There were two chances that left Union players scratching their heads. One of these chances came in the 14th minute when Sporting KC defender, Graham Zusi committed a foul on the edge of the penalty box and gave the Union a good look at goal. Center back Jack Elliot of Philadelphia hit a pitiful free kick that did not even get over the Sporting wall. Another opportunity for the Union came in the 37th minute when they were awarded a penalty off a corner kick that hit the hand of Seth Sinovic. Philadelphia sent Fabian to take the penalty and goalkeeper Tim Melia made a diving save going to his right. This save kept the momentum on Sporting KC’s side and rejuvenated the crowd which was distraught after hearing the penalty called.
The Union struggled in the final third, and failed to connect on any crosses that were sent in the box. Although Sporting KC found themselves pinned back defending their goal for a majority of the first half, they were able to close out the half with a 1-0 lead.
Like the first half, Philadelphia were the more aggressive team in terms of creating opportunities. Philadelphia once again knock on the door, but Tim Melia came up with another save. This time the shot was heading towards the top right corner and Melia managed to get a finger on the ball and send the ball gliding over the bar. Sporting KC almost added to their lead off of a set piece in the 55th minute. Sporting KC midfielder Felipe Gutierrez sent a scorching shot that sailed right over the bar and into the crowd. Kansas City caught a break in the 60th minute when there was a foul called on Philadelphia right outside of the box. The referees went to VAR to determine if the foul was harsh enough for a red card. After review, the officials decided to issue a red card to Fabian. Philadelphia were down to ten men for the rest of the match.
Graham Zusi took the free kick after the review, and nearly sent a curler into the top right corner. The shot deflected off the right post and Sanchez’s rebound shot went array. Tim Melia came to the rescue again in the 69th minute when he made a magnificent save on Corey Burke’s shot right in front of goal. Sporting jumped on this missed opportunity and scored again in the 80th minute to close the door on Philadelphia. The goal resulted in a cross from Gerso Fernandes found the foot of a Philadelphia Union defender and curved into the goal. Sporting KC played keep away for the remainder of the game, and cruised to victory.
Sporting KC will be back at Children’s Mercy Park on Thursday when they host Independiente de la Chorrera in the second leg of the quarterfinals in the CONCACAF Champions league.
“We know what we have to do,” said Vermes. “It’s going to be difficult. We have to play better than we did today.” Sporting Kansas City is currently trailing 2-1 on aggregate.
(Photo Courtesy of Sporting KC)