KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Philadelphia Union did a little streak-breaking on Friday night at Sporting Park.
They scored for the first time in four games, won for the first time in six and picked up their first-ever away victory over Sporting Kansas City with a 1-0 victory behind Conor Casey's first-half goal. And in doing all of that, they put themselves back in playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
The Union (11-10-9) are now fifth in the East with 42 points after Zac MacMath's league-best 11th clean sheet, while Sporting (14-10-6) missed a chance to catch Supporters’ Shield-leading New York atop the conference ahead of the Red Bulls' key Sunday matchup against West leaders Seattle.
Kansas City, which entered the match with a 2-0-1 home record against the Union, had a three-match winning streak snapped in their second straight game without Matt Besler. The All-Star and US international center back, who has not been listed on any injury report, was in the 18 but has not played since captaining the side in last week's 1-1 CONCACAF Champions League draw against Nicaragua's Real Esteli.
For Sporting, it was another sounding of a familiar refrain – dominating everywhere but the scoreboard and giving up a goal against the run of play because of an unforced error.
Kansas City firmly controlled possession through the first half, 61 percent to 39 percent, but couldn't turn that advantage into goals. MacMath, who finished with five saves, came up big with three first-half stops, two of them acrobatic – the first on Benny Feilhaber's free-kick blast in the 14th minute, and the second on Graham Zusi's shot toward the upper left corner in the 28th.
Eight minutes after that stop, Dom Dwyer's giveaway in the midfield sprung the Union for a counter that turned into a scrum in the area. Jimmy Nielsen was able to block Michael Farfan's shot from close range, but the ball fell to Casey for the point-blank putaway into the center of the goal.
The goal, his 10th of the year, broke a 345-minute drought for the Union and gave Casey a share of the team scoring lead with the slumping Jack McInerney.
Sporting generated several chances to equalize after the break, the last when MacMath saved Aurelien Collin's set-piece header just seconds before the final whistle, but once again couldn't find the net.
Both teams are back in action on Oct. 5, Philadelphia at home against Toronto FC and Sporting away to Columbus.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Amobi Okugo||Read the game like a veteran, calm in distribution, and - always most important vs. KC - won the physical battle. Immense performance.|
|2||Zac MacMath||Much maligned, but his recent uptick in form continued with an often spectacular, always assured display in net. Star of the first 45.|
|3||Uri Rosell||Did it all, creating chances, breaking up Union run-outs, and setting the rhythm for KC's dominance.|