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Sporting Kansas City defeat Philadelphia Union 3-1 in MLS season opener

Mar 2, 2013, 6:07 PM EDT

Sporting Kansas City v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

Chester, Penn. – Sporting Kansas City opened the 2013 season with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union, but it wasn’t as smooth a match as the visitors would have liked.

An early goal for Philadelphia rattled Kansas City, but the Union’s second half breakdowns — “the little things,” as Union coach John Hackworth called them — led to three points in the opener for a Sporting team expected to again contend for the Eastern Conference crown.

“We felt like we had the chances, we were dictating the game and it was just a couple tiny plays that seem so inconsequential, yet they lead to something,” Hackworth said. “Credit to Sporting Kansas City because they take advantage of those little things. They believed in that and felt they could come back. And that happened.”

The first half was a case of something old, something new for the Union. Philadelphia came out inspired – perhaps in part by an unorganized Kansas City back line – and got on the board in the 17th minute when Sebastien Le Toux finished a perfectly-weighted Keon Daniel cross from the left wing.

Two ball-watching Sporting KC defenders, Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic, left Le Toux unmarked and the Frenchman celebrated his return to the club he leads in all-time goals, assists and points by putting the Union on the board. Le Toux calmly settled the ball with his right foot and slotted it into the back of the net from six yards out, scoring in his first game of the season, just as he did in his first stint with the club in 2010.

Le Toux and Daniel easily found space in the pockets in front of Sporting’s back line in the opening 30 minutes to give Philadelphia a new, confident look that it lacked last season.

It was a fitting return for Le Toux, who scored a hat trick in the team’s first-ever home game on April 10, 2010.

But Philadelphia’s seemingly fresh look of confidence was shaken just before halftime, when winger Graham Zusi punished the Union’s collective mental lapse to equalize.

Bobby Convey sent in a floated left-footed cross that forward Claudio Bieler knocked down into the path of an unmarked Benny Feilhaber. His shot from point-blank range was saved by Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but Zusi pounced on the rebound to make it 1-1 in the 41st minute.

(MORE: What a match from Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi)

Sporting returned from the break with more aggression than they had in the first half and managed to deflate much of Philadelphia’s early energy. The visitors were rewarded in the 66th minute, courtesy of an Oriol Rosell header off Zusi’s in-swinging free kick.

Philadelphia left Rosell unmarked just outside the 6-yard box for the go-ahead goal.

For the 2012 Eastern Conference regular season champions, order was restored – for now.

(MORE: Video of the first goal for MLS 2013)

Rust was present throughout the unconvincing win for Sporting Kansas City, however. Philadelphia nearly tied the match in the 77th minute when Besler chested the ball back to Nielsen inside the 6-yard box, forcing the unsuspecting goalkeeper to scramble for a save.

Bieler buried all hope of a season-opening win for Philadelphia when he easily slotted home a Chance Myers pass from 15 yards out to give Sporting Kansas City a 3-1 win.

“It gives us confidence on the road that we could come back from a deficit,” Zusi said. “The statistics in this league are not very high for teams that get scored on first on the road. You don’t usually see them come back and win the game, so that’s a good sign for us. Just the fact that we can dig deep in not an ideal environment, grind out the game — it wasn’t the prettiest game either — to know that we can grind those games out is a positive thing.”

Sporting faces another Eastern Conference road match on Saturday, March 9, at Toronto FC before playing its home opener March 16 against the Chicago Fire.

Match highlights are here:

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  1. pensfan603 - Mar 2, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    If Le toux didnt score we would be talking about how terrible of a game he had and its because he had a terrible game, he must of had atleast 15 turnovers, from just aimless passes and missed alot of great opportunities , i dont know why Hoppenot didnt go in for him in the 85′.
    Also Macmath, he had one save, and that save lead to goal off of a rebound so really he did nothing to stop sporting from scoring on the 3 opportunities they had, the second two he shoudl of had, and the 2nd goal he was definatly at fault he should of stayed in net.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 2, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      I thought Le Toux was quite dangerous for 30 mins, finding lots of space with his running. But, heavens, yes … he should have nailed that 23rd minute goal. And in fairness, back to goal not his best spot.

      No arguments on MacMath. The kid made a mess of that second goal. First one is a toughie, but he just can’t leave that rebound there.

      • pensfan603 - Mar 2, 2013 at 7:57 PM

        Yuo mean taking advantage of the wholes in SKCs defense, sorry but he isnt going to get that every week, he was definatly good but i think it was more of how bad SKCs defense was for the first 30.

  2. footballer4ever - Mar 2, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    I am in a non-MLS market and thank God for MLS live. I like SKC, but was hoping for an improved Union club who would bring pride and excitement to the city who has supported in masses, but as is expected, the stadium was not a full house. It’s not surprising to see that after the drama the club experienced with players getting traded and the previous coach going postal. To be fair, SKC is a solid team and Union had long ways to go to inspire their own fanbase.

    • pensfan603 - Mar 2, 2013 at 7:56 PM

      Completely agree.

  3. footballer4ever - Mar 2, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    I hope i am not breaking any policies by doing this, but it’s not often football movies available to enjoy. The “GOAL” movie trilogy was good, but if anyone is interested there is a movie named “Hermano” (Brother) from 2010. The movie is in Spanish , but subtitled in english. Worth checking it out with a more realistic plot and less cheesy. Enjoy!

  4. mvktr2 - Mar 2, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    Philly is such a frustrating team (one of 4 I follow in MLS). Imho they’re one of the top 3 or 4 teams in MLS with the ball at their feet. Yet the defense continues to look like something Hans Backe would roll out, especially on set pieces. This team needs veteran leadership along the backline alongside Parke if they’re going to play young and talented MacMath. The roster could obviously be tweaked and hopefully somethings will be address when Adu is dumped. However I’m fairly convinced the largest problem is defensive/gk coaching … it’s simply unacceptable.

    Btw from the guys at extratime radio podcast got it right when they proclaimed Adu the biggest disappointment of the season … it was in jest, but … ;)

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