For the third time in three trips to Sporting Park, the Union returns with points in hand, this time courtesy of a 1-1 hard fought draw against the defending MLS champions, Sporting Kansas City.
Union newcomer Brian Brown rewarded his 69th minute substitution into the match a little over a minute later with a resounding header off a Ray Gaddis cross into the box.
The goal is the first of Brown’s MLS career, and it took just his second League appearance to get on the score sheet.
“I am extremely happy for Brian,” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin who improved to 3-1-3 in MLS play (5-2-3 in all competitions) with the draw. “He’s a really quiet, humble kid and for him to give us a goal like that in a big spot was huge. He’s a kid that in training shows every day that he just needs one chance and we always joke that he really only needs one look and tonight he proved us right.”
This match was high intensity from the start with Sporting Kansas City owning possession, but the Union quick on the counter attack using the flanks to stretch Kansas City and put balls into the box. Gaddis, the assist man on the night played on the left side of the pitch but made sure to also get into the mix on attack. Both he and defensive midfielder Amobi Okugo puched up extremely high into Sporting Kansas City’s danger area looking to put one away.
It was Sporting (11-5-6, 39 points) that struck first in the 54th minute after an errant Union clearance out of the back sparked a KC counterattack that found a timely run from midfielder Graham Zusi. Zusi notched his fourth of the year for SKC slotting the ball wide of MacMath, who came out to charge Zusi’s run.
However it was the Union (5-8-9, 24 points) that poured on the pressure following Zusi’s goal, a relentless wave that found Brown providing life with less than 20 minutes to go.
“Great atmosphere and a great side in Sporting Kansas City,” said Union midfielder Brian Carroll postgame. “They move the ball really well and they make you defend and really earn everything you get. We [as a team] rolled up our sleeves, battled and fought; especially to go down one here and bring one back…I think it shows our guys have a lot of character and aren’t going to give up until it’s over.”
This was a primetime match that despite the low score had fantastic end to end action. Statistics show SKC had a resounding edge in possession, but the Union’s gameplan wasn’t to keep the ball, but only to keep it long enough to attack hard and fast on the counterattack and on a few occasions the gamble nearly paid off.
The Union nearly walked out with three points after a scramble off a corner kick into the box landed at the feet of defender Sheanon Williams. Williams looked to have a chance to put away his second of the season, but SKC goalkeeper Andy Greuenbaum was quick to cover it up. Greuenbaum finished the match with six saves, while Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was put on the stat sheet with four.
The Union will look to ride a string of unbeaten games in MLS play – which has now reached four – into a meeting at home against Montreal on Saturday, Aug. 9 at PPL Park (7 p.m., purchase tickets).
“We are confident that we can get results,” said Curtin. “We are coming down the stretch now and the majority of our games are at home. We have the tough part of the season behind us now and we’re a team that’s going to be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Now we go back to PPL [Park] our home and look for the home field advantage, the same time of advantage like [Sporting Kansas City] has here [at Sporting Park].”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org