Sapong Scores Late Equalizer As Union Draw With NYCFC

Philadelphia Union drew with New York City FC, 1-1, Thursday night as C.J. Sapong slammed home the equalizer in the 86th minute – his first ever goal for the Union. It was a bruising game in front of 20,461 fans at Yankee Stadium, which featured 27 fouls and eight yellow cards. For NYCFC, Mehdi Ballouchy tallied the club’s lone goal.

“The guys showed a lot of fight – it was a real battle tonight,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “Not the beautiful game that we all like, but at the same time I thought we created chances and we pushed and we got rewarded in the end… For us to get that one [point] is huge just because that’s four points we’ve taken from them in two games. It would have felt like a wash if they got the three tonight.”

Sapong, who the club acquired for the No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft this past offseason, teamed up with fellow 58th minute substitute Cristian Maidana for the equalizer. Maidana played a long ball into the box that Maurice Edu headed down, but it was Sapong who took it off the volley and powerfully struck the ball into the upper right corner.

“It was a tougher finish than you think,” Curtin said. “[Sapong] had to wait for the ball to come down and put it in the corner. It was a good goal… It’s great. I give the kid a lot of credit. He had his face literally smashed in Week One in the first 45 minutes of the game. He wanted to be back on the field right away. But for him to stick with it, stay in shape as well as he did during his down time, and score a big goal for us tonight.”

It was the second straight game the Union came out flying after the opening whistle. In the 2nd minute, Andrew Wenger blasted a shot on net that forced a save from NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders. Saunders could only punch it, though, and it fell to an off-balanced Sebastien Le Toux who put another attempt on net, albeit not at full force.

In the 27th minute, Javier Calle took an NYCFC corner that perfectly found the head of Adam Nemec, but his attempt was just over the bar.

However, their best chance in the first half came a minute later off a Union turnover. David Villa backheeled a ball for Ballouchy, who only had Union goalkeeper John McCarthy to beat, but his attempt went over the bar.

Scoreless at halftime,  NYCFC made a double substitution, taking out Villa and defender Jason Hernandez. Kwado Poku and Kwame Watson-Siriboe came on.

Shortly thereafter, McCarthy made his save of the night – he had four altogether – with a right-footed kick save on Ned Grabavoy. The play was set up by Poku.

Just four minutes later, NYCFC broke the tie when Ballouchy took a ball just inside the 18 and set up his left foot to curl one past a diving McCarthy. He then received a yellow card following the play and the Union made a double sub, bringing on Sapong and Cristian Maidana for Fernando Aristeguieta and Eric Ayuk, respectively.

The Union started to mount the pressure in the final 20 minutes in search of an equalizer. In the 73rd minute, off a long free kick from Maidana, Zach Pfeffer had a chance to tie it, but his shot – which was deflected – was saved by Saunders’ left arm. The play was set up by Sheanon Williams, who immediately fed an attempted clearance to a wide-open Pfeffer.

But the equalizer finally came in the 86th from Sapong. After suffering a concussion in the club’s season opener that forced him to miss three straight games, he’s now been used as a substitute in the three straight and was happy to get his first tally of the season.

“It’s an opportunity, man,” Sapong said. “I had a little drought within my own standards and I tried to focus extra today on going with the play. I think the last couple of games there were some tricklers that I could’ve gotten to if I had stayed with it. That was my motto for the day, was focusing, concentration. It fell for me and I just put it in the net.”

The Union took four of six points from NYCFC during the home-and-home set. They will have a quick turnaround and will return to the field Sunday to face New England Revolution on ESPN2. Kick-off is slated for 5 p.m.

“We can build on it and now look forward to New England, a very good team coming in on the weekend that is well rested,” Curtin said. It’s a quick turnaround and we’ll try to get three points on our home field.


BOX SCORE
New York City FC 1, Philadelphia Union 1
Yankee Stadium
The Bronx, N.Y.

SCORING SUMMARY
NYC – Mehdi Ballouchy (Khiry Shelton) 57’
PHI – C.J. Sapong (Cristian Maidana) 86’

DISCIPLINE SUMMARY
PHI – Vincent Nogueira (yellow) 22’
NYC – Ned Grabavoy (yellow) 25’
NYC – Javier Calle (yellow) 32’
PHI – Sheanon Williams (yellow) 41’
NYC – Mehdi Ballouchy (yellow) 58’
PHI – C.J. Sapong (yellow) 67’
NYC – Kwame Watson-Siriboe (yellow) 73’
NYC – Andrew Jacobson (yellow) 87’

UNION STARTING XI
John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Steven Vitoria, Maurice Edu ©, Sheanon Williams, Andrew Wenger, Michael Lahoud, Vincent Nogueira (Zach Pfeffer 63’), Eric Ayuk (Cristian Maidana 58’), Fernando Aristeguieta (C.J. Sapong 58’), Sebastien Le Toux.

New York City FC STARTING XI
Josh Saunders, Josh Williams, Jason Hernandez (Kwame Watson-Siriboe HT), Chris Wingert, Javier Calle, Medi Ballouchy, Andrew Jacobson, Khiry Shelton, Ned Grabavoy, Adam Nemec, David Villa (Kwado Poku HT).

OFFICIALS
Baldomero Toledo (referee), Kermit Quisenberry (assistant), C.J. Morgante (assistant), Edvin Jurisevic (fourth).

ATTENDANCE
20,461