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Game Changers: Sporting behavior

The Philadelphia Union’s win over Sporting Kansas City was the result of some very good individual plays.

Philadelphia Union vs Sporting Kansas City Photo Gallery Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

1.) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it - Jim Curtin elected to go with the same lineup that the Union had used just three days prior in their win against Columbus Crew SC out in Ohio. With little time to train between matches, Curtin played the same exact starting eleven men against Sporting Kansas City. It worked like a charm, as the team was in sync and looked none the worse for wear - even on a hot and humid afternoon.

2.) Fabinhowned - The Brazilian left-back played one of his best games in a Union jersey on Saturday, absolutely torturing SKC both offensively and defensively. On the defensive side of the ball he seemed to be everywhere - picking off passes and making sure runs down the Union’s left side went nowhere. As good as he was on the defensive side of the ball though, it was the offensive side where he really shined.

His overlapping runs with Chris Pontius were causing SKC such problems that Peter Vermes was forced to switch Graham Zusi with Jacob Peterson so that Zusi could match up with Fabinho. Didn’t matter though - he’d still contribute an assist later in the match (more on that here in a bit).

3.) Defense wins - The Union’s defensive unit stymied Sporting Kansas City all night long. SKC had 10 total shots, and of those five were off target, three were blocked, and thus two were saved by Andre Blake. While Blake’s saves were very good (more foreshadowing), credit should go to the entire defensive unit. Blake wasn’t alone in being solid, as Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry, and the aforementioned Fabinho gave SKC nothing the entire night. Also credit Warren Creavalle, who since returning to his natural central defensive midfield position has been a solid starter for the Union. He was instrumental in breaking up the SKC attack before it had a chance to begin for most of the night.

4.) Albergolazo - Fabian Herbers had a decent enough game, but you could tell the fatigue was starting to set in a bit as he was subbed off for Roland Alberg. Alberg has been either hot or cold this season, and Saturday he was hot. Shortly after coming on, he teamed up with Fabinho for this golazo:

There are two things to notice during this. First is when Fabinho is coming down with the ball, Chris Pontius and Alberg cross paths. When they do this, Soni Mustivar follows Pontius and Alberg is left all by himself in space. He actually points to where he wants the ball.

Sporting Kansas City's defense left Roland Alberg wide open.

And Fabinho puts it right on the money. Alberg takes a touch to settle it, pushes it to his right, and then rips one right into the upper corner of the goal.

This was a devastating blow to SKC - look at the body language after the goal. You could tell by that one frame that they weren’t going to come back and win.

Body language of the Sporting Kansas City players after the Roland Alberg goal says it all.

5.) Down two - Sporting Kansas City ended the match with just nine men, and while Peter Vermes can complain about the refereeing all he wants, these were on his men being undisciplined at the wrong times. It’s not often you see two men on the same team carded at the same time, but in the 20th minute this happened:

First, Jimmy Medranda’s tackle from behind on Tranquillo Barnetta was reckless and absolutely deserved a yellow card. That he argued it was laughable enough until Roger Espinoza runs in and starts berating Juan Guzman. Then it turned into comedy when Guzman turned to Espinoza and carded him for dissent. Espinoza has to do better to keep his temper in check there - the referee has issued the card and screaming in his face isn’t going to make a bit of difference.

Later in the match, Medranda was racing down the right flank with Keegan Rosenberry when Medranda stuck his leg out and tripped Rosenberry.

Perhaps Rosenberry went down a tad easy there, but Medranda has to be smarter than that. He’s already on a yellow card, and he has to know that Guzman has his number as he was whistled for three fouls in the match. To allow himself to get into that position is poor play on his behalf.

Then later in the match, as the Union were up a man and a goal, Espinoza picked off a crossing pass, and then did this:

Sporting Kansas City fans were irate at this call, but Espinoza clearly settles the ball and instead of pivoting upfield takes two steps toward Alberg and throws the elbow before turning upfield. Guzman was absolutely right to show Espinoza a card, although to be fair a second yellow might have been more appropriate. It may turn out to be a good thing it was a straight red though, as the Disciplinary Committee can’t overturn suspensions on second yellows - so SKC fans may get their day in court after all. I can’t help but think it won’t do any good though.

6.) Barnetta to Alberg and back - While these two don’t share the pitch often, when they do it’s magic. This give and go is absolutely perfectly executed.

Sporting Kansas City was clearly gassed, but Ike Opara simply gave up on covering Barnetta. That being said, the quick passing on this is absolutely perfect, and Barnetta’s shot just flat out beat Alec Kann, who really didn’t have that terrible of a game.

7.) Andre Blake - Here’s your weekly edition of being in awe of an Andre Blake save:

You’re welcome.