This was a match that both teams needed to win. Sporting KC needed all three points to keep their hopes alive to win the Supporters’ Shield and finish atop the Eastern Conference for a third year in a row, and the Philadelphia Union needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Even before kickoff, there was a lot of anticipation for this match, and it was a match that lived up to all the hype. A stoppage time goal from the least likely of players saw Kansas City beat the Union 2-1.
For the first 45 minutes, Sporting KC looked to be the weaker side. With poor passing and little emphasis on possession, Sporting KC was giving the ball away quite a bit. The first chance for Sporting came in the 13th minute when Dom Dwyer was able to find a little bit of space and took a shot off the half volley. It went just inches wide of goal. Jacob Peterson would have the best chance for Sporting in the first half. A Graham Zusi free kick from about 40 yards out was able to bounce through the Union defense and land at the feet of Peterson, who was wide open in front of goal. But his weak left footed shot went right into the hands of Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. The first half would end 0-0.
The second half started with a quick goal from Zusi. Matt Besler’s long throw-in found the head of Lawrence Olum, who flicked the ball to the back post. Zusi was able to beat his marker and head the ball past MacMath. It was Zusi’s sixth goal of the year, and came at a very important time. With the Union down a goal, and needing to win, they immediately looked for the equalizer. The Union had a great chance to equalize in the 75th minute. Second half substitute Jack McInerney found the ball at his feet right in front of the six-yard box. He didn’t make great contact on his shot, which was deflected off the line by Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic.
The Union would find their equalizer in the 88th minute. The ball was being knocked around at the top of Sporting KC’s 18-yard box, and after a few poor clearances from the Kansas City defense, McInerney had the ball played to him behind the Sporting backline. He was able to slot his shot past ‘keeper Jimmy Nielsen. It seemed as if Sporting’s dream of winning the Supporters’ Shield was all over. But things would change in four minutes.
Peterson was able to get on the end of a long clearance from Nielsen. He played a cross in front of the Union goal, which landed at the feet of substitute Teal Bunbury. Bunbury settled the ball, and saw a wide open Olum. Olum coolly put the ball into the back of the net, scoring his first career MLS goal. Olum couldn’t have asked for a better time to score his first goal for the club.
With the win, Sporting KC will now have to wait and see what happens this afternoon between the New York Red Bulls and the Chicago Fire. If New York either draws or loses against Chicago, then Sporting KC would finish as the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the MLS Cup playoffs, giving them home field advantage through the entire playoffs. They would also win the Supporters’ Shield, granting them a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, which would start next summer. For those interested, the New York and Chicago game is at 4:00 pm, and can be found on the Spanish channel UniMas.