Friday, August 1, 2014

Sporting KC moves into Supporters' Shield lead with 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City moved ahead in the Supporters' Shield race and extended the team's eight game unbeaten streak with a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union on Friday at Sporting Park.

Graham Zusi scored in his second consecutive match and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum made six saves in front of the 47th straight MLS sellout crowd.\

A scoreless first half wasn't without scoring chances, beginning in the 12th minute with a header from Dom Dwyer. The Englishman beat Zac MacMath to a corner from Antonio Dovale but his shot was cleared off the line by Brian Carroll at the back post.

MacMath and Dwyer were again at the heart of the action in the 24th minute when Benny Feilhaber's cross was chested down by Maurice Edu inside the area. The Philadelphia goalkeeper was alert to the danger and smothered the loose ball moments before Dwyer could pounce.

The home side continued to control the tempo -- to the tune of 71 percent of the possession in the opening 45 minutes -- as Antonio Dovale placed his shot on target from 30 yards out. MacMath was up to the task to parry the attempt and kicked away the rebound with Dwyer lurking.

The Union's first shot on goal of the game came in the 41st minute, courtesy of a free kick from Vincent Nogueira. The curling effort from the left corner of the penalty area was met by a fully extended Andy Gruenebaum to make the diving save.

The best scoring opportunity for either side in the first half came in the final minute with Zusi placing a delicately chipped ball over the top of the Union defense and into the path of Mikey Lopez. The UNC product, selected in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and making his third career MLS appearance, tried to sneak his shot beneath MacMath only to see it turned away with a kick save.

Philadelphia quickly countered the length of the field and Danny Cruz found Sheanon Williams alone on the right side of the penalty area. The fifth-year professional and Union original delivered a low drive that was kept out by Gruenebaum on the final play of the half.

Following a halftime ceremony to induct club founder Lamar Hunt, manager Peter Vermes and six-time All-Star Jimmy Conrad into Sporting Legends, the action resumed right where it left off fifteen minutes earlier. Danny Cruz did well on the ball inside the midfield circle before springing Carroll free on goal. The Union captain's left-footed shot from the edge of the 18-yard box was pushed away by Gruenebaum to leave the score level.

Sporting Kansas City then grabbed the 1-0 advantage in the 54th minute from the foot of Zusi. Dovale collected an errant header from Raymon Gaddis and slipped the ball to Zusi for a first-time finish inside the far post.

Zusi now has 20 career goals for Sporting KC, moving him into a tie with Mark Chung for ninth most on the team's all-time scoring chart. Sporting KC supporters can celebrate the second half goal by texting BWWSKC to 72727 to receive a buy one, get one snack size wing order at any KC-area Buffalo Wild Wings locations. Additionally, Sporting KC supporters can receive 44-cent Monster Taco's at Jack in the Box on Saturday as a result of the team's four shots on goal.

The Sporting KC All-Star nearly doubled the lead a minute later, combining on a give-and-go with Dwyer to unlock the defense. MacMath came off his line to cut down the angle and Zusi's shot skimmed inches wide of the post.

In search of an equalizer, Philadelphia came close in the 62nd minute when Conor Casey's header from a Sebastien Le toux corner kick was saved by Gruenebaum. The visitors found the game-tying goal less than 10 minutes later on an eight-pass scoring sequence that culminated with a header into the back of the net from Brian Brown.

Just over a minute after coming into the match for his second MLS appearance, the 21-year-old Jamaican international was on the end of a cross from Gaddis and made no mistake with a well-placed header past Gruenebaum.

Without Matt Besler (suspension) and Lawrence Olum (international duty), Sporting Kansas City's roster rotation continued on Friday with the team's 22nd different starting lineup in 22 MLS matches this season. Honduran international Jorge Claros made his MLS debut in the holding midfield position, while fellow summer signing Martin Steuble entered late for his first minutes in a Sporting KC uniform.

Jacob Peterson -- filling in at left back in place of the injured Seth Sinovic -- struck a shot on frame from 40 yards out in what would be Sporting Kansas City's last shot on goal of the game in the 73rd minute. Gruenebaum made two more stops, covering a shot from second-half substitute Andrew Wenger in the 77th minute and ending a goalmouth scramble in second-half stoppage time by smothering an attempt from Williams.

Following Friday's match, five Sporting Kansas players will next travel to Portland, Oregon in conjunction with the 2014 MLS All-Star Game. Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin and Graham Zusi will join the MLS All-Stars to take on German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on Aug. 6 (8:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2 and UniMas) while Jon Kempin and Erik Palmer-Brown will participate in the inaugural Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game on Aug. 4 (9 p.m. CT, WatchESPN and

Sporting Kansas City's next MLS match comes on the road at the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday, Aug. 10 at BC Place. The match will air live on KMCI-TV 38 the Spot locally and on SKCTV across the Midwest. The team's official watch parties will be held at Johnny's Tavern locations in the KC Power & Light District (1310 Grand Blvd.) and Olathe (10384 S. Ridgeview Rd.).