For the first ten minutes, it was a pretty cagey back and forth affair.
After that Sporting settled in a little and started imposing their will on the game. Benny Felihaber had a couple nice sequences getting forward, as did Seth Sinovic. And Sporting KC was more than content to pass around their back and draw the visiting Philadelphia Union out.
For a moment it looked like KC could dominate like they did at Montreal a few days earlier. But then things started to unravel.
“Maybe they thought we were playing the same game on Saturday in Montreal,” remarked KC boss Peter Vermes afterwards. “We just didn’t have the juice we normally have. I’ll have to go back and look at the training that we’ve done over the last couple days. We lacked the pop that we normally have.”
That includes first time starter, 19-year-old Igor Juliao, who struggled a bit, mostly with the speed of the game. The defender, inserted in place of Chance Myers, gave away several balls in the first 30 minutes and looked nervy. Though you could definitely see his upside – good on the ball and athletic.
“For a 19-year-old, I thought he played very well,” said Vermes. “I think he is very scrappy. You have to understand he just started with us. So in a short period of time, I thought he did a great job in the game. He’s a bright spot for the team.”
As the first half wore on, and despite the fact that Sporting was controlling possession at a rate of about 70-30%, they still didn’t look that dominant. They looked a bit sloppy and lackadaisical.
And then it bit them in the 49th minute when Philly broke free on a counter and went up 1-0. It started with a run down the left flank, then a ball played across that KC keeper Eric Kronberg parried. But he didn’t clear it and it settled right in front of net. The Union’s Danny Cruz rushed in and got his boot to it for the easy tap in.
Then the floodgates kind of opened for the visitors. It was KC who was chasing, looking tired. Philly was countering well and getting Sporting out of sorts in the back with the speed of their strikers and wingers.
But around the 70th minute Dom Dwyer came on in place of Claudio Bieler and seemed to give KC a burst of energy, as the Englishman is wont to do.
And wouldn’t you know, just a few minutes in, Dom cracked a pretty one-timer blistering into the back of the net from 20. The play was set up by a series of one touch passes, ending with a little dink into the center channel where the British Bulldog was barreling his way through.
But it wouldn’t last long.
A couple short minutes later KC’s defense broke down, allowing Philly to possess for far too long in the box. It resulted in a simple one time strike, low and into the far corner. Kronberg could do nothing but watch it roll in and put the visitors up 2-1 with only about 10 minutes to play.
Philly would hang onto the 2-1 lead to the final whistle despite some chances for Sporting and a straight red issued to a Union defender for a high challenge on Jacob Peterson.
“We played like crap,” said Sporting captain Matt Besler. “That’s the frustrating part of the game-we can play like we do (last) week, and then come out tonight and play like we did tonight.”
“The difference is that they brought a hunger and a level of work ethic that we didn’t match,” said Vermes. “When you look at the stats, they don’t always tell the story. But when you end the game and the other team out-fouls you 20-5, it’s because they’re more aggressive. Everyone always complains about us because it’s normally the other way around. When you play aggressive, it’s not because you’re dirty, it’s because you’re hungry. You want to win the ball back. Today they were more (hungry) than we were. That’s not something that’s going to become the norm for this group.”