Facing a somewhat depleted Sporting Kansas City line-up, the Philadelphia Union took advantage and managed to wrangle yet another point from Sporting at Sporting Park, this time a 1-1 draw thanks to a goal from second half substitute and newly signed Jamaican mystery man Brian Brown.
The first half consisted of nothing in the way of goal-scoring but plenty of action, especially toward the end. Both Zac MacMath and Andy Gruenebaum made huge saves to deny goal-scoring opportunities. While both had many highlights, the best for MacMath came when he denied Mikey Lopez in the 45th minute on a straight one-on-one opportunity. Gruenebaum meanwhile denied a wondrous Vincent Nogueira free kick a couple minutes earlier that appeared to be curling toward the top corner of the net. Both individuals put forth a spectacular effort on that play and shortly after MacMath denied Lopez, the match entered half time tied at nil.
It looked like the Union had a perfect opportunity to take a lead in the 47th minute when Danny Cruz played a perfect ball to Brian Carroll but Gruenebaum was up to the task of stopping Carroll's shot. The Union came to regret that missed opportunity in the 54th minute when Sporting Kansas City got on the board thanks to an abnormally poor clearance from Ray Gaddis. Gaddis's poor header resulted in an instant turnover in the Union third and it was not long before Graham Zusi was slotting the ball past MacMath to put Sporting ahead 1-0.
Instantly following the goal the Union almost had another disaster at the back but they lucked out when Zusi shot it inches wide of the post. At this point you probably would have been hard-pressed to find a Union fan who believed the match would end the way it did. While the Union have had success scoring goals this season, Sporting is just as excellent at preventing them and also excellent at scoring them while the Union have been leaky at the back all season long.
Brian Brown came on for Conor Casey in the 69th minute in a move that paid quick dividends for the visitors and had Union fans everywhere saying "nice." Two minutes after his entrance Brown latched onto a perfect cross from Ray Gaddis and used his head to power it pass Gruenebaum and tie the game. Nice.
The Union had an opportunity to take a shock lead during stoppage time. A Sebastien Le Toux corner created a mad scramble in the box with open net in front of him, Sheanon Williams's shot deflected off a sprawling defender into the laid out arms of Gruenebaum preserving the tie and the point for each side.
Ultimately a draw feels like a fair result in this game. Total shots and shots on target were both fairly even with SKC edging the Union in total shots (14-12) and the Union edging SKC in shots on target (6-7). The Union will be happy they got a point against one of the top teams in the league, however they will be wishing they had converted at least one more chance because after a somewhat disappointing draw to Chicago, three points at Sporting would have been a monumental feat.
That now makes four points the Union have gotten from Sporting this season. In a season where numerous things have gone wrong, the Union's results at Sporting Park have been a bright spot and have greatly helped the Union cling to the faint hopes of a playoff berth in a season where everything once felt lost. A win would have been better, but the Union are not the only team hovering around the middle of the Eastern Conference to disappoint this season, and hope remains for playoffs.
Up next for the Union, a return home next Saturday against Montreal Impact. The Union have had two disappointing results against Montreal thus far this season. They can't get those results back, but they can register a win against them for the first time in the Jim Curtin era.