CHESTER, Pa. – Sébastien Le Toux enjoyed a memorable return to Philadelphia, but Graham Zusi picked up right where he left off from last season to lead Sporting Kansas City to a 3-1 victory over the host Union in the 2013 MLS opener.
Zusi, the league leader in assists in 2012, had a first-half goal and two assists, including on Oriol Rosell’s game-winning tally in the second half, as SKC erased a 1-0 deficit in front of more than 18,000 fans at PPL Park.
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Claudio Bieler, a recently signed designated player, added a late insurance goal for Sporting Kansas City, the two-time defending regular-season Eastern Conference title holders.
Le Toux scored the Union’s first goal of the season in the 17th minute after sneaking behind the SKC defense and receiving a brilliant over-the-top ball from Keon Daniel, who was a surprise starter in midfield.
Le Toux managed to control the long pass and immediately fire it past SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to the short side to put the Union up 1-0.
WATCH: Le Toux scores first MLS goal of the 2013 season
It was the 26th goal in a Union jersey for Le Toux, who was a fan favorite in Philly in 2010 and 2011 before getting traded away prior to the 2012 season. After one season away with the Whitecaps and Red Bulls, he was traded back to the Union last December and started Saturday’s season opener as the club’s lone striker.
Le Toux nearly scored his second goal of the game in the 22nd minute after right back Sheanon Williams, on a counter-attack, set him up on a breakaway. But his shot went just wide (WATCH: Golden chance for Le Toux).
The Union, who controlled possession for much of the first half, had other chances to score, but Nielsen stopped a close-range shot from Gabriel Farfan in the fourth minute as well as an on-point free kick from Michael Farfan in the 27th minute.
Not being able to build a two-goal lead proved critical when Sporting Kansas City knotted the game at 1-1 just minutes before halftime.
The buildup began when Philly native Bobby Convey made a nifty move along the sideline and played a cross into the box to Bieler, who headed it back to fellow SKC newcomer Benny Feilhaber. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath blocked Feilhaber’s blast but could not do the same on Zusi’s close-range rebound attempt.
WATCH: Zusi's 40th minute equalizer for Sporting KC
Zusi, who made the All-Star Game last year, struck again in the 66th minute with a sharp free kick to Rosell, who broke free of his mark and headed it past MacMath (WATCH: Rosell's goal).
After falling behind 2-1, the Union brought in three offensive subs – Jack McInerney, Roger Torres and newcomer Conor Casey – but could not beat Nielsen, who stopped McInerney on a header and prevented a possible own-goal from Matt Besler.
OPTA CHALKBOARD: SKC's Collin all over the field vs. Philadelphia
With the Union pressing numbers forward, Bieler scored in his first game for Sporting Kansas City, off an assist from defender Chance Myers in the 83rd minute.
WATCH: Bieler's first goal in MLS
The Union play their first road game of 2013 next Saturday in Colorado (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE), while Sporting Kansas City travels to Toronto FC next week for their second straight road match to start the 2013 season (1:30 pm ET, TSN).
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Graham Zusi (SKC)||An opportunistic goal, and two assists including the game-winner, the US international is picking up right where he left off from a stellar 2012 season.|
|2||Claudio Bieler (SKC)||Sporting's new DP wasted little time making an impact. His heady play in the box led to Sporting's first goal and he got another himself.|
|3||Aurelien Collin (SKC)||After a shaky first 20 minutes, the Frenchman was all over the field with clearance after clearance for Sporting.|