Allowing goals at the end of either half has been a problem all season.
That problem resurfaced Wednesday night.
Despite playing very well for much of the match, the Philadelphia Union left LIVESTRONG Park with a frustrating 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. The Union (10-17-6, 36 points) easily could have come away with at least a draw against the hottest club in the league.
But a goal by C.J. Sapong in the 83rd minute gave Sporting a 12-match unbeaten streak, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
Instead of reveling in a draw, the Union came away empty. It has happened much of the season where the club has played well but has given up untimely goals at the end of either half.
“It’s tough because I think we played a really good game for parts of it,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I thought we made some pretty poor mistakes in other parts. I don’t think the mistakes that we made can be made against a team of the caliber of Sporting Kansas City. They’re a good team, you have to give full credit to them, but I’m also proud of my team because I thought we stood toe-to-toe with them for a long time and had numerous opportunities to go up in the game.
“We were unfortunate to not get at least one more goal in there. Jack McInerney hits the post on a header inches away from [goalkeeper Jimmy] Nielsen in the first half. It’s tough. It’s disappointing but at the same time I thought we played well and well enough to get a result here. It’s kind of been our story the whole year. We play at the same level but we gave up opportunities.”
Watch: Match highlights; commentary
Jacob Peterson gave Sporting a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 40th minute, yet another example of conceding a late goal despite playing well.
Super substitute Antoine Hoppenot equalized in the 53rd minute, following up on Nielsen’s save of Michael Farfan’s penalty kick. Danny Cruz was taken down in the box, setting up the penalty kick/
It was Hoppenot’s fourth goal this season.
“We just made a couple of tactical adjustments,” Hackworth said of the changes he made at halftime. “We brought in Antoine Hoppenot into the game. To Gabriel Gomez’ credit, he played really well in the first half but we saw that Sporting was playing a high line and we thought we could get behind them with Antoine’s speed. It was a little bit of a gamble but when you’re down 1-0 on the road you have nothing to lose. At 65-70 minutes in, I didn’t think there was a chance we were going to lose the game.”
Until Sapong received a terrific pass from Kei Kamara and changed the outcome. Kamara now has a career-best eight assists this season.
“I thought we matched up pretty well,” Union defender Amobi Okugo said. “It took us a little while to get into it. But you saw in the second half that it was a dogfight. Unfortunately, we didn't get the result we wanted.”
The Union will have one last shot at redemption when they host the New York Red Bulls Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.
“New York is a rivalry game,” Okugo said. “We haven't beat them this season so we have to give the home fans something to remember going into offseason and to build into next season. We have to get out of this slump that we've been in with two road losses and it's going to be good to end the season at home against one of our rivals.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org