KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Omar Bravo and Sébastien Le Toux scored seven minutes apart in the second half as Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia Union each settled for a point in a Friday night matchup of teams vying for a place at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Sporting held the majority of the possession through 90 minutes, but the Union’s resolute defense kept clear-cut scoring opportunities to a minimum as the teams played to their second tie this season following a 0-0 result at PPL Park in June.
With the draw, Kansas City (10-9-11) moved into a tie with Columbus for first place on 41 points in the East while the Union (9-7-13) sit one point back of both with a game in hand on Kansas City and even on matches played with the Crew.
Although Sporting pushed forward from the opening kick, the Union had the first real chance of the game just two minutes in when Le Toux found himself on the end of a neat one-two and took off toward goal. Fortunately for Kansas City, the Frenchman sent his tight-angle shot well wide of Jimmy Nielsen’s back post.
Sporting tested rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath for the first time six minutes later when Matt Besler’s long throw ricocheted around the six-yard box, eventually falling to the feet of Kei Kamara. Kamara took a swing with his left foot but scuffed the shot, allowing MacMath to fall on the effort.
Despite that early flurry of activity, neither team created much in the way of scoring opportunities for the next 30 minutes. Philadelphia seemed content to keep 10 players behind the ball and search for Le Toux on the counter while Kansas City enjoyed the majority of possession but couldn’t connect in the final third.
The home team finally found an opening in the Union’s stalwart back line, though, in the 40th minute from Jeferson’s well-struck corner kick. Kamara, who was the most dangerous player for both sides in the first half, rose above his marker and put his header on frame, but his effort was a shade high and nicked off the crossbar.
While visiting manager Peter Nowak held firm with the 11 he began the game with, Sporting’s Peter Vermes shook things up at halftime, replacing Jeferson with Aurélien Collin and pushing Júlio César into the midfield.
With the Brazilian providing a steady anchor in the middle of the park, Sporting once again dominated possession for the half’s opening 10 minutes before the opening goal arrived courtesy of Bravo.
Predictably, Kamara was at the center of the move, chipping a delicate cross to the back post for Bravo, who beat Gabriel Farfan to the ball and lashed it past MacMath in the 56th minute for his team-high ninth goal of the season.
The Union answered right back, however, as substitute Jack McInerney came inches away from sneaking a ball past Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen at the near post a few minutes after coming on for Veljko Paunović.
With the game approaching the 60-minute mark, both managers went to their benches. C.J. Sapong entered for Kansas City, replacing Teal Bunbury, while Nowak sent 16-year-old Zach Pfeffer on for Kyle Nakazawa.
And in the 63rd minute, Philadelphia got their equalizer when Michael Farfan used a neat bit of skill to keep the ball alive on the touchline, eventually picking out Le Toux lurking at the corner of the six-yard box for his eighth goal of the season and seventh in seven games.
The tally seemed to ignite both sides and both defenses were called into action to thwart promising moves on both ends of the pitch, the best coming via Sapong from a curling shot that was foiled by a diving MacMath.
Despite both team’s trading half chances the final 20 minutes, neither was able to break through, preserving a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
KC -- Omar Bravo 9 (Kei Kamara 4) 56
PHI -- Sebastien Le Toux 8 (Michael Farfan 2) 63
PHI -- Carlos Valdes (caution; Reckless Foul) 60
Philadelphia Union -- Zac MacMath, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Kyle Nakazawa (Zach Pfeffer 62), Roger Torres (Stefani Miglioranzi 72), Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic (Jack McInerney 56).
Substitutes Not Used: Morgan Langley, Ryan Richter, Joe Tait, Karry Harrison.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Jeferson (Aurelien Collin 46), Omar Bravo (Soony Saad 89), Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 62).
Substitutes Not Used: Davy Arnaud, Michael Harrington, Peterson Joseph, Eric Kronberg.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: -Fabio Tovar; George Gansner
4th Official: Juan Guzman
Time of Game: 1:52