KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Philadelphia Union have had a pretty good year so far at Sporting Park.
In mid-May, they snapped a nine-match winless skid with a 2-1 victory here. And after Friday night's 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City, they have four points in two visits to the defending MLS Cup champions' home – and a four-match unbeaten streak heading into the break for the MLS All-Star Game.
Philadelphia (5-8-9) also kept the Eastern Conference leaders from pulling four points clear of second-place D.C. United, even though Kansas City (11-5-6) did extend their unbeaten run to eight matches.
Graham Zusi put the hosts up 1-0 early in the second half, but substitute Brian Brown – with only nine MLS minutes to his name after being loaned from Jamaican side Harbour View in July – scored shortly after entering the game to salvage a point for the Union.
Sporting went with their 22nd different lineup in as many matches, with center back Matt Besler serving a red-card suspension, left back Seth Sinovic out with a groin strain and defensive midfielder Lawrence Olum with Kenya's national team. Honduran World Cup veteran Jorge Claros made his MLS debut in the defensive midfield.
Philadelphia were without midfielder Cristian Maidana, who is tied for second in the league with eight assists, because of a hamstring injury.
Sporting dominated the first-half possession, 71 percent to 29 percent, but couldn't turn that into an advantage on the scoreboard. They threatened to go up 1-0 early on, when Dom Dwyer's 12th-minute header off a corner kick looped toward the upper left corner of the goal, but Brian Carroll was there to head it safely over the bar.
Andy Gruenebaum made a leap to his left to knock away Vincent Nogueira's dangerous free kick in the 41st minute, after Aurelien Collin brought down Danny Cruz just outside the penalty area, and Zac MacMath and Gruenebaum traded foot saves in the closing seconds of the half to keep things scoreless at the break.
It didn't stay that way for long, though.
Philadelphia's backline broke down in the 53rd minute, leaving Toni Dovale 1-v-1 on Maurice Edu near the top of the area. Dovale tapped a pass past him to a streaking Zusi in space, and he finished inside the left post for his third goal of the year.
Zusi nearly doubled that two minutes later, but drove another wide-open attempt a shade outside the right goalpost – and in the 71st minute, just two minutes after coming on for Conor Casey, Brown pulled the Union even.
After next week's All-Star break, Philadelphia return to action on Aug. 9 against Montreal. Sporting are off until Aug. 10, when they travel to Vancouver.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Graham Zusi||Showed an extra gear all night, all over the pitch, and very nearly bagged a brace.|
|2||Brian Brown||Only on for 21 minutes, but provided the offensive spark they needed all night -- and a critical road point.|
|3||Andy Gruenebaum||Philadelphia wanted all three after pulling even, and he had to fend off several good chances near the end.|