Sporting KC drops match in Philadelphia, 2-0

Sporting Kansas City (15-8-6, 1st place) closed out the club’s slate of cross-conference matches with a 2-0 loss at the Philadelphia Union (14-12-4, 5th place) on Sunday inside rain-soaked Talen Energy Stadium.

Jay Simpson and John McCarthy capitalized on their first starts of the season with Simpson bagging a brace and McCarthy recording six saves for the clean sheet.

After snapping Seattle’s nine-game winning streak on Wednesday, Philadelphia opened on the front foot with David Accam cutting inside along the edge of the penalty area and sending his shot narrowly over the bar in the eighth minute.

Two minutes later, Tim Melia produced his first – and finest – save of the day to deny Simpson from eight yards out.

Sporting Kansas City responded to the early pressure with a pair of scoring chances of their own as the match approached the half-hour mark.

Gerso Fernandes ran onto a through ball from Roger Espinoza and cut past McCarthy only to then send his shot into the side netting.

In short succession, McCarthy – making his first MLS appearance in over a year – would be called into action again to collect Johnny Russell’s attempt for one of two first-half saves.

The second would come in the 40th minute as the former USL Goalkeeper and Rookie of the Year kept out a first-time effort from Fernandes after Russell did well to cut the ball back and pick out his fellow forward just past the penalty mark.

On the opposite end, Sporting Kansas City survived a close call in the 36th minute when Fabian Herbers’ shot deflected off the leg of Matt Besler en route to crashing off the crossbar.

The rebound fell to Simpson, whose follow-up was destined for the back of the net if not for Seth Sinovic’s goal line clearance. Borek Dockal would try his luck at breaking the deadlock moments later, however Melia was up to the task with a sprawling save to his left despite another deflection altering the shot’s trajectory.

The second half would continue to produce goalkeeping highlights, beginning in the 54th minute. Espinoza’s lofted cross was met at the back post by Felipe Gutierrez, whose header was superbly pushed wide of target by McCarthy after skipping off the wet surface.

Krisztian Nemeth, twice racing onto the end of Graham Zusi crosses, and Fernandes, slicing a shot inches wide himself, would continue to cause problems for the Union, but it was the home side that opened the scoring against the run of play in the 71st minute.

Auston Trusty’s floated free kick into the penalty area was won by Bedoya with a header that fell to the foot of Simpson.

The 29-year-old Englishman made no mistake with a perfectly-placed volley into the bottom left corner for his first goal of the season to give his squad a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City would push numbers forward in search of an equalizer and force two late saves from McCarthy, first to thwart a blistering blast from Zusi in the 82nd minute and then a tremendous touch to block Nemeth’s shot from sneaking inside the post in the 88th minute.

Instead of a game-tying goal at the death, it was Philadelphia that tallied the game’s final goal with Simpson striking again in the 89th minute.

Two second-half substitutes combined on the scoring sequence with Fafa Picault providing the service to Bedoya on a well-timed run behind the backline. Bedoya astutely laid the ball off via a header for Simpson and the forward buried the ball into the back of the net to cap his breakthrough performance.

Sporting Kansas City, held scoreless for the first time in 11 MLS matches, remains atop the Western Conference with second-place FC Dallas in action at Vancouver tonight.

While the Union head for Houston for the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Final on Wednesday, Sporting KC returns home to play host to Real Salt Lake at 4 p.m. next Sunday in a nationally-televised match-up on FS1. A limited number of tickets are available and can be purchased by calling 888-4KC-GOAL or visiting SeatGeek.com.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC visits Philadelphia Sunday

Sitting atop the Western Conference with wins in six of their last seven matches, Sporting Kansas City (15-7-6, 51 points) will continue their playoff pursuit Sunday when the club visits the Philadelphia Union (13-12-4, 43 points) for a noon showdown at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania.

The cross-conference clash will air live nationally on ESPN and ESPN Deportes with a live stream available on WatchESPN, while listeners can catch local radio broadcasts on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. In addition, The Final Whistle postgame show will air immediately after the match on 810 WHB.

Two teams who have lost just once in their last seven matches will lock horns this weekend as Sporting KC return to the venue where they hoisted the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. Manager Peter Vermes’ men own a one-point lead at the top of the West and will face a Philadelphia side that boasts a club-record 13 regular-season wins in 2018.

Sporting KC enters Week 30 with the chance to clinch a club-record eighth straight postseason berth, needing a win over Philadelphia plus help from Atlanta, Minnesota and second-place FC Dallas. The team will punch its ticket to the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

• Sporting KC beats Philadelphia on Sunday, and
• Atlanta United FC beats or ties Real Salt Lake on Saturday (6 p.m.), and
• Minnesota United FC beats or ties the Portland Timbers on Saturday (7 p.m.), and
• FC Dallas beats or ties Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday (6 p.m.).

Forward Gerso Fernandes sparkled in Sporting KC’s 5-1 road win over the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, becoming the third player in club history to record two goals and two assists in an MLS match.

Felipe Gutierrez, Ike Opara and Krisztian Nemeth also found the back of the net as Sporting KC bagged five goals in an MLS away game for the first time since April 2000.

With 54 goals through 28 games, Sporting KC are averaging 1.93 goals per game and remain on pace to break the team record for most goals in a regular season. That record stands at 61, set in the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign, meaning Sporting KC need seven goals over their final six games to tie the mark.

Entering the weekend, Sporting KC is the only side to have four players with at least seven MLS goals in 2018: Johnny Russell (eight), Diego Rubio (eight), Daniel Salloi (seven) and Felipe Gutierrez (seven).

Philadelphia atoned for a 4-1 home loss to the Montreal Impact last Saturday by posting a 1-0 away win over the Sounders on Wednesday, snapping Seattle’s historic nine-game winning streak. Fafa Picault slotted home in second-half stoppage time to move level with Cory Burke for the team lead on eight MLS goals.

Picault and Burke form part of a balanced Union attack that also features former Sporting KC striker C.J. Sapong (four goals) and Ilsinho (five goals). Head coach Jim Curtin wields a formidable midfield, as well, with the likes of U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya (two goals, four assists), Haris Medunjanin (two goals, six assists) and Czech playmaker Borek Dockal, who has five goals and an MLS-best 15 assists this season.

A crowded fixture list adds a layer of complexion for the Union, who will travel to face the Houston Dynamo in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final next Wednesday.

With just three days separating Sunday’s battle and the all-important Open Cup tilt, Curtin must decide whether to rest multiple starters this weekend. Philadelphia will be making their third Open Cup Final appearance in five seasons, having lost the championship on home soil in 2014 and 2015 to Seattle and Sporting KC.

Two Sporting KC leaders are on the brink of major milestones. Vermes has amassed 130 regular season wins at the helm, one shy of passing Frank Yallop for sole possession of fifth place in the all-time MLS charts.

Veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza could make his 250th competitive appearance for the club. The Honduran would be the seventh player in Kansas City history to reach that landmark, joining teammates Matt Besler (295) and Graham Zusi (285) as well as current assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin (291), Davy Arnaud (273), Nick Garcia (273) and Preki (254).

Sporting KC leads the head-to-head series with a 6-5-6 record in all competitions, but has just one win in their last seven matches with Philadelphia since 2014. The most recent meeting saw the sides play to a 1-1 draw in July 2017 at Children’s Mercy Park, with Rubio and since-departed Union midfielder Roland Alberg trading second-half goals.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC to hold youth soccer clinic Tuesday

Sporting Kansas City and Ivy Investments will team up to hold a free youth soccer clinic for approximately 100 local children ages 8-12 from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

World Cup veterans Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza, along with MLS All-Star Ilie Sanchez and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia, will make special appearances at the clinic, including an autograph session for all participants.

In addition to the on-field clinic to teach youth soccer fundamentals, adults in attendance will hear key tips on planning for children’s higher education goals through a brief seminar from Ivy Investments, including tips on tax-advantaged education savings plans called 529 plans.

“Through our ongoing partnership with Ivy Investments, we are excited to host an event that will give local youth the opportunity to interact with four Sporting KC stars on the field at Children’s Mercy Park,” said Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Jake Reid. “Ivy Investments continues to be an exceptional partner that we can align with to expand our community outreach, and we both love collaborating on experiences that can teach and inspire children and adults.”

Event attendees will be inside many of the state-of-the-art stadium spaces at world-class Children’s Mercy Park, including the Ameritas Shield Club, Ivy Investments Executive Level, UMB Field Club and Sporting KC locker room. All in attendance will also have the opportunity to enter raffles for a Sporting Kansas City team-signed soccer ball and shirts off the back of all four Sporting Kansas City players.

– Story from Sporting KC

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