May 15, 2014, Kansas City, KS (ISN) – Philadelphia Union (2-5-5) defeated defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, 2-1 on the road Wednesday night at Sporting Park behind second-half goals from Danny Cruz and Cristian Maidana.
The Union return to PPL Park Saturday for a match against New England Revolution (7 p.m. ET, The Comcast Network).
“I can’t say enough about the guys in our locker room,” Team Manager John Hackworth said. “That was an incredibly gutsy performance against probably the best team in the MLS. We came into a very tough place to play, and you’ve got to give Sporting Kansas City a lot of credit because they are an excellent team. For large parts of the game they put us in a difficult spot. But again, credit to our guys—they fought. We didn’t play our best soccer, but we got the goals when it mattered. The response after the Sporting Kansas City goal was fantastic, and we held on to the end.”
The reward for a solid first half of soccer from the Union was in the 48th minute when Cruz finished off a nice run down the left flank from Maidana with a perfectly timed run of his own into the box, pushing the ball past Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg.
It wasn’t quite déjà vu given the final score line, but in each of the club’s past two trips to Sporting Park, the Union (2-5-5, 11 points) have returned with three points. Last time out, it was a Conor Casey goal in the 36th minute that proved the difference.
Wednesday night’s affair found nothing but jubilation for the Union, as Cruz and the entire team rushed to the sidelines after the first goal to embrace Union manager John Hackworth.
“We’re behind him and he knows we are behind him,” Cruz said of his manager postgame. “We just wanted to show to the media and to the fans that tonight was big for not just us, but for [Hackworth] and I think you could see the fight in everybody tonight for that big reason.”
Sporting Kansas City (5-3-2, 17 points) leveled in the 81st when second half substitute Dom Dwyer hit rocket past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. But 30 seconds later, Maidana would close the affair when forward Andrew Wenger staved off defensive pressure and laid a pass off to Maidana. With one swing of his boot, Maidana hit a curling shot around both an onrushing defender and Kronberg to secure the spoils for the Union.
“I’m really happy; it was a gutsy team effort,” Maidana said postgame via translator. “This goal was for my family, and for all of the fans that always support me but mostly for the coach who believed in me from the first moment I got here.”
In a match devoid of designated player Maurice Edu and mainstay Brian Carroll, both who did not travel with the team, the Union played as a collective unit with Amobi Okugo having one of his best games of the year from a midfield position. Additionally, the energy of Cruz, who played all but the last seven-plus minutes of the match, gave Sporting Kansas City fits. Defensively, the Union managed to keep Kansas City on the back foot and kept Sporting playmaker Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler quiet.
Truly a strong showing for the Union against two players that were named to the provisional 30-man United States roster for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Union head home with three points in tow and look to nab three more from Eastern Conference side New England visits PPL Park for a Saturday showdown (7 p.m.). For those unable to make it to PPL Park, the match will be presented for the first time in high definition on the Comcast Network (channel 580) for Verizon FiOS customers.
“Everyone feels pretty confident in the offense, especially after scoring two goals,” MacMath said. “It’s been a while since we’ve scored two goals and to score two in the run of play is really good for our confidence. Now it’s about taking that into this match against New England [this Saturday] and finishing out this stretch on a high note.”
Philadelphia Union 2, Sporting Kansas City 1
Wednesday, May 14; 7:30 p.m. ET
Kansas City, KS
PHI: Cruz 49’
SKC: Dwyer 80’ (Nagamura)
PHI: Maidana 81’ (Wenger)
PHI: Fabinho 58’ (yellow)
PHI: Nogueira 70’ (yellow)
SKC: Besler 86’ (yellow)
PHI: Bone 90’ (red)
PHI: MacMath 94’ (yellow)
UNION STARTING 11
MacMath, Fabinho, Williams, Berry, Gaddis, Okugo, Nogueira (Bone 89’), Fernandes, Maidana (Wheeler 92’), Wenger, Cruz (Le Toux 83’).
SPORTING STARTING 11
Kronberg, Collin (Olum 61’), Juliao, Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Bieler (Dwyer 71’), Zusi, Zizzo (Peterson 55’).