KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The Philadelphia Union's long nightmare is over. Sporting Kansas City's troubles might be just beginning.
When Dom Dwyer drove home an emphatic equalizer for Sporting in the 80th minute, it appeared the Union's winless streak might reach 10 matches. But Cristian Maidana answered just a minute later with a far-post strike that gave Philadelphia a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night.
Danny Cruz also scored for the Union (2-5-5), who won for the first time since they beat New England 1-0 on March 15, their second match of the year. Due to the loss, Kansas City (5-3-2) missed a chance to take over sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead.
Sporting were at full strength for the last time before winger Graham Zusi and center back Matt Besler join the US national team for the World Cup in Brazil, while Union midfielder Maurice Edu – a Wednesday scratch because of concussion concerns – reported to the USMNT earlier in the day.
But early on, with Sporting struggling to complete passes and Philadelphia committing several unforced errors in possession, it was hard to tell which team was leading the East and which one hadn't won since mid-March.
Sal Zizzo had two decent chances for Sporting in a lackluster opening 45, but Zac MacMath was there both times to deny him in the 33rd minute and in first-half stoppage time. At the other end, Philadelphia's best chance of the half came when Eric Kronberg spilled Cruz's low shot in the 19th minute but got enough of his hands on the ball to deflect it out for a corner.
Cruz made the most of his next big opportunity, though, just over three minutes after the break. Maidana got past Uri Rosell and unleashed a shot that Kronberg could only parry in front of goal, and Cruz beat Seth Sinovic to the rebound and stuck it in for his first goal of the year.
Dwyer, who came on for Claudio Bieler in the 71st minute, notched his team-leading seventh goal on a give-and-go with Paulo Nagamura, firing Nagamura's return pass into the top center of MacMath's goal.
But almost before the confetti had settled, Maidana was celebrating his first goal of the year at the other end.
Besides losing Besler to World Cup duty, Sporting – who already have seen center back Ike Opara's season end with an ankle injury – could have even more worries at the center back spot. Aurelien Collin, who took himself out of a 4-0 win over Montreal late last month with hamstring tightness, had to sub out in the 62nd minute on Wednesday night when the hamstring tightened again.
Both teams are back in action this weekend, with Philadelphia hosting New England on Saturday and Sporting away to the Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Vincent Nogueira||Set the tempo on both ends of the field for Union, and showed once again why he's one of the league's best newcomers|
|2||Zac MacMath||Had two key stops in the first half to give Philadelphia confidence they could grab a result|
|3||Cristian Maidana||Was admittedly not very good in the first half, but came alive to help Union with both goals|