The Philadelphia Union hosted Sporting KC on Wednesday night at PPL Park, needing just one point to tie the New York Red Bulls for first place in the East. Sporting KC sat in last place, a full ten points behind New York.
A crowd of over 18,000 soccer fans (including the infamous Sons of Ben in the River End) packed PPL Park on this hazy, hot, and humid night hoping for a Union win and a return to first place. Forward Carlos Ruiz, who had been playing in the Gold Cup, returned to Philadelphia and started the game for the Union.
Midfielder Veljiko Paunovic made his first start for the Union at PPL Park alongside Jack McInerney, Brian Carroll, and Justin Mapp. Forward Danny Mwanga sat out the game with an injured right knee.
Philadelphia certainly had its’ chances to score in this match. They managed 19 shots in the contest with 7 of them right on target, but none of them were able to find the back of the net. An impressive kick save by Sporting KC goalkeeping Jimmy Nielsen (at whom Union fans chanted “Bridget Nielsen” during the entire first half) stopped a shot by McInerney in the 27th minute that easily could have put Philadelphia up 1-0.
In the second half, they had three chances in particular to score but couldn’t capitalize. The first came in the 72nd minute on a beautiful pass from Sebastian Le Toux to Ruiz but Ruiz’s header banged off the cross bar.
The second came just five minutes later (77th minute) on a thunderous strike from Mapp, but was nullified on a diving save from Nielsen.
The last one came in the 80th minute when a shot by Le Toux skipped past the right post.
Alas, the Union finished the game with out a goal (their second match in a row without scoring after losing 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road). Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon pitched yet another shutout for Philadelphia but really wasn’t tested as the Union defense kept Sporting KC’s offense to a minimum.
The Union were riding an impressive eight game home unbeaten streak into the game which now sits at nine straight. They play again this Saturday at PPL when they welcome in Chivas USA who currently sits towards the bottom of the West (just ahead of Vancouver who is in dead last).
The Red Bulls play tonight against Seattle, needing only a draw to retake sole possession of first place.
***In other PPL Park news, Villanova will host University of Delaware in football at PPL Park on November 19th! This will be the first game there for Villanova, which will most likely play all home games at PPL Park if they move up to Division 1 Football.***
To view our full photo gallery from the game…