Recap: Nielsen the hero as SKC take 0-0 draw from Union
CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City both came into Wednesday night’s game at PPL Park riding streaks. The Union hadn’t lost at home all season, while Kansas City enjoyed a five-game unbeaten run.
Both streaks lived on Wednesday as the two Eastern Conference clubs played to a scoreless draw in a game mostly dominated by the home side.
It was the Union’s first shutout since April 30, but also the second straight game in which they failed to score. Even still, Philly (6-4-5) used the result to move into a first-place tie with the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
Kansas City, despite not having lost since May 21, remain in last place in the East with a 3-6-5 overall record.
The Union looked like the stronger club in the first half, registering four shots on goal while drawing four corner kicks. But thanks to the strong play of Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who made a handful of impressive saves, Kansas City kept the game scoreless heading into the break.
Nielsen’s best stop of the night probably came in the 27th minute when Philadelphia striker Jack McInerney, making just his second start of the season, took two touches to open himself up in the box before calmly trying to place it by Nielsen, who was able to make a kick save. The Kansas City 'keeper came up big again two minutes later when he dove to his left to knock away a well-taken free kick from striker Carlos Ruiz, back with Philly after missing a month of action due to the Gold Cup.
In addition to pairing Ruiz and McInerney up top, Union manager Peter Nowak started two other usual strikers — Sébastien Le Toux and new signing Veljko Paunović — in the midfield, but did not dress leading scorer Danny Mwanga.
The Union kept pressing after the break, nearly breaking the tie in the 72nd minute when a cross from Le Toux found Ruiz, who headed it off the crossbar. Five minutes later, outside midfielder Justin Mapp ripped a shot from point-blank range that Nielsen punched away. Then, in the 80th minute, Le Toux dribbled to space and blasted a low shot that skidded by the right post.
In front of 18,127 fans, the Union kept the ball in their offensive third for the rest of the game, but couldn’t get the goal they were looking for. Philadelphia finished with seven shots on target, while SKC had just one.
Philly have another home game in three days when Chivas USA visit PPL Park on Saturday. Sporting return home to face Vancouver the same day.
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Reckless Tackle) 28
PHI -- Veljiko Paunovic (caution; Simulation) 31
KC -- Jimmy Nielsen (caution; Delaying a Restart) 92+
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara, Luke Sassano, Davy Arnaud, Birahim Diop (Stephane Auvray 72), Omar Bravo (Michael Harrington 63), Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Korede Aiyegbusi, Milos Stojcev, Shavar Thomas, Eric Kronberg.
Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey, Justin Mapp (Roger Torres 78), Brian Carroll, Jack McInerney (Keon Daniel 59), Veljiko Paunovic (Amobi Okugo 65), Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz.
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Farfan, Juan Diego Gonzalez, Stefani Miglioranzi, Zac MacMath.
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Jason Cullum
4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivero
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 80 degrees