Match Recap: Strong defensive showing not enough as Union fall on the road to Sporting Kansas City

A first-half penalty and an own goal off the foot of a diving Jack Elliott were enough for Sporting Kansas City to slip past Philadelphia Union 2-0 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas on Sunday afternoon. Andre Burke nearly pushed Ilie Sanchez's penalty around the post but the shot snuck in and Marco Fabián could not pull off a similar trick. Tim Melia saved the Mexican international's penalty late in the first half, diving to his right to make a strong stop. 

In a back and forth opening forty-five minutes, the Union created a series of chances but couldn't penetrate Melia's goal. Using Kai Wagner to advance the ball up the left and an insistent high press that created multiple interceptions in the attacking half, Philly made it difficult for the home side to assert any dominance  One interesting aspect of the Union's attack was that in his first start of the season, Warren Creavalle made frequent early forays into the opposition box. 

Peter Vermes' team struck first, however, after Auston Trusty was adjudged to have pushed Gianluca Busio over in the box after a sensational defensive play by Ray Gaddis to slow a counterattack. Making his 100th start, Andre Blake got a hand to Ilie Sanchez's penalty, but could not keep the well-struck shot out of the net. 

In the 22nd minute, the Union nearly broke through Kansas City's lines when Marco Fabián sent Warren Creavalle through Kansas City's lines. Graham Zusi hauled down Creavalle on the edge of the box and picked up a yellow card. Fabián's free kick, however, flew directly into the wall. 
The Union shaped up with Fabián joining the strikers in a high defensive front, and this caused issues for Kansas City's buildup. In the 38th minute, a ball put back into the box was headed down and struck Seth Sinovic's arm. After consulting the Video Assistant Referee, Chris Penso pointed to the spot. Fabián stepped up looking for his second penalty in as many weeks, but Tim Melia dove to his right to push the shot away. 

The Union came out strong in the second half and Burke stung Melia's hands in the 49th. Two minutes later, the ball was knocked back into the box after a set piece and Jack Elliott took a swing at it in front of goal. A deflection meant the big defender's shot took a big, slow bounce so Melia could easily lock in on it. 

The match changed in the 58th minute when Fabián was called for a foul on Johnny Russell at the top of the Union box. The Mexican playmaker tipped the ball past the sliding Scotsman and leapt over the follow-through. Fabián landed with one foot on Russell and, after consulting VAR, Penso sent off the Union creator for what was deemed serious foul play. Kansas City began to exert more influence on the game once they had an extra man, but Philly held strong in back and allowed only two shots on goal in the second frame. Unfortunately, a second goal arrived for the home team when Jack Elliott, making a defensive sprint and lunge, tipped the ball behind Andre Blake and into the net in the 80th minute. 
Sergio Santos, Ilsinho, and Derrick Jones arrived late as the Union looked for a way back into the match. But down a man on the road they couldn't make up the difference. 

Philadelphia returns to action next Sunday, March 17 at 7:15 p.m. ET on PHL17 when they travel to face Atlanta United. 


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