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Keep on Roland: Union comfortably defeat SKC

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The Union put two by Sporting Kansas City to win their third of their last four games.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After a fairly even first 45 minutes, the Philadelphia Union dominated Sporting Kansas City in the second half, leaving the match with a two-goal, and two-man, advantage. Sharpshooter Roland Alberg came off the bench to hit his ninth goal of the season, then later set up Tranquillo Barnetta to put the game beyond doubt.

The Union's attempts on goal were all in vain until Alberg entered the field in the 65th minute. Moments later, he scored, blowing one by SKC goalkeeper Alec Kann from distance. Alberg and Barnetta completed a nice one-two on the edge of the 18-yard box nearly 20 minutes later, as Barnetta went on to roll one into the side-netting.

Despite the hectic ending, the first half was anything but pretty. Even still, the Union did manage to make Peter Vermes and SKC sweat before the goals came.

Fabinho created the two best chances of the half, sending nearly identical crosses to the far post just minutes apart from each other. Both balls rolled just past CJ Sapong, who couldn't connect with either cross.

Tranquillo Barnetta was also active in the first period, firing off a long-range shot in the 10th minute, then setting up Chris Pontius in the 27th. Unfortunately for the Union, Alec Kann was up to the task on both occasions.

Both sides fought for control to start the second half, but the game quickly swayed in the Union's direction when Sporting KC went down a man. Jimmy Medranda earned his second yellow card in the 64th minute when he brought down Keegan Rosenberry outside the box.

The Union capitalized on the advantage minutes later, when Roland Alberg thumped one past Kann from distance. The midfielder had just entered the game, but it didn't take long for him to score his ninth goal of the season.

Alberg nearly notched a brace in the 84th, but Alec Kann managed to push his shot over the bar, almost impossibly.

Moments later, referee Juan Guzman sent off Roger Espinoza for a wild elbow, reducing SKC to nine men. Like the one before it, the red card was a harbinger of a Union goal. In second-half stoppage time, Tranquillo Barnetta picked up a feed from Roland Alberg and slotted the ball past a helpless Kann to double the lead.

Despite the disadvantage, Sporting nearly pulled one back just before the final whistle. From a free kick, Dom Dwyer forced an awkward save out of Andre Blake, who just managed to push the ball onto the crossbar.

The Union will travel to Chicago next weekend, as they prepare to play four out of their next five games on the road.

Notes

  • Roland Alberg managed to make an immediate impact on Saturday night, blasting in a Goal of the Week candidate and setting up a teammate for another tally. Though a crowded Union midfield has limited his role for much of the season, he has shown that he can provide when asked; his goals per 90 figure of .88 is certainly evidence of that. Whether or not he finds his way into the starting lineup before the end of the season, his quality will be welcome when the Union enter the playoffs.
  • Until Alberg entered the game, Fabinho was the star of the night. The left back had a solid game defensively, and he'll probably consider himself unlucky not to have an assist or two. With Fabinho, we've come accustomed to taking the good with the bad, and, not too uncommonly, taking the good with the atrocious, but there was hardly anything to wince at in tonight's performance.
  • The Union have struggled defensively over the past few months, but they've begun to get back to their stingy ways. Tonight's clean sheet was the team's first at Talen Energy Stadium since July 9th.