By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Chalk it up as playing a team at the right time, or one team simply executing a solid game plan. Either way, the Philadelphia Union saw Sporting Kansas City at their worst just days after Sporting KC gave fans a glimpse of their best.
The Union scored on an 81st-minute winner from Cristian Maidana and survived a Corben Bone 90th-minute red card to beat Sporting KC, 2-1, on the road in front of 19,073 at Sporting Park.
“I can’t say enough about the guys in our locker room,” Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth said after the match. “That was an incredibly gutsy performance against probably the best team in the MLS, (especially) coming to a very difficult place to play.
“You got to give Sporting Kansas City a lot of credit, because they’re an excellent team and they really — for large parts of the game — put us in a difficult spot,” Hackworth added. “But again, credit to our guys (because) they fought through. We didn’t play our best soccer. It might of been, in some respects, one of our poor performances soccer wise, but we got the goals when it mattered.”
The score that mattered for Philadelphia came late in the second half from Maidana seconds after Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer tied the match at 1-1. Maidana was gifted the ball at his feet after forward Andrew Wenger did well to deliver a promising attempt inside the Sporting KC box. The shot from Maidana froze Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg at the near post, and all he could do was watch it roll towards the far post and into the back of the net.
“The first five and last five (minutes) of each half, or after we score a goal, we have to really be focused, and we had another mistake tonight,” Sporting KC defender Aurelien Collin said regarding his team’s lack of focus at certain points of games this season.
Maidana’s goal meant that Sporting KC had to play catch up for the second time in the final 45 minutes. Philadelphia was able to come out of the scoreless halftime break and take a 1-0 lead with a goal from forward Danny Cruz in the 49th minute after Maidana was able to get around Sporting KC midfielder Oriol Rosell and deliver a ball that would be deflected right to Cruz for the easy tap in.
Sporting KC was nearly revitalized in the 90th minute after Bone — who was subbed on by Hackworth 30 seconds earlier — was shown the straight red card for a poor challenge on forward Jacob Peterson, but the home team was unable to find an answer of its own.
The only bright spot for Kansas City, which looked lackluster for much of the evening despite having the edge in several statistical departments, was Dwyer’s beauty of a goal in the 80th minute. The streaky forward received an excellent ball from midfielder Paulo Nagamura and took a world-class attempt that found the corner of the net to stalemate the match at 1-1 for a good 45 seconds before Maidana silenced the hometown crowd for the rest of the match.
“We deserved to lose. They were the better team,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said in the post-game press conference. “They worked harder than we did, and they were hungrier than we were. They beat us to all the balls — very seldom do we get outworked playing against one of our opponents, but tonight we got outworked in our home stadium and that doesn’t sit well with me. That’s for sure.”
With the result, the Union improve to 2-5-5 and will now look forward to Saturday and a meeting at home with the New England Revolution. Sporting KC fall to 5-3-2 and will prepare for a weekend matchup as well Sunday in Chicago against the Fire.