Recap: Nine-man Sporting KC falls 2-0 at Philadelphia Union

Nine-man Sporting Kansas City took a 2-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday night. The hosts capitalized on their numerical advantage in the second half as substitute Roland Alberg scored a stunning goal in the 67th minute before setting up Tranquillo Barnetta’s insurance strike in stoppage time.

Sporting Kansas City defender Jimmy Medranda was sent off in the 59th minute for his second bookable offense, allowing the Union to seize control during the final half-hour. Roger Espinoza was then ejected four minutes from time, further denting the visitors’ hopes of a late equalizer.

Saturday’s result saw Philadelphia (11-9-7, 40 points) exact revenge after falling to Sporting Kansas City (11-12-5, 38 points) on the same field in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. Manager Peter Vermes’ men have now failed to win in 12 straight MLS road games dating back to April.

Vermes fielded a significantly changed lineup from Tuesday's 3-0 setback to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the CONCACAF Champions League. Saad Abdul-Salaam and Soni Mustivar were the lone players to retain their spots as Sporting Kansas City concluded an arduous stretch of five games in 15 days. Matt Besler and Ike Opara were center back partners for the first time since May 1, midfield mainstays Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber returned to the fold, and Dom Dwyer was flanked by Jacob Peterson and Graham Zusi in attack.

Union head coach Jim Curtin fielded an unchanged lineup from Philadelphia’s 2-1 road win at Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday, and the hosts translated that momentum into a strong start on Saturday evening. Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Alec Kann was forced to make a fantastic diving save in the ninth minute when Barnetta cut into the middle from the left wing and sent a curler to the far right corner. Kann leapt at full extension to touch the ball wide of frame and keep his side level.

Six minutes later, Fabinho overlapped down the left flank and whipped a teasing cross into the penalty area, just beyond the sliding reach of former Sporting KC striker C.J. Sapong. Kann produced another fine stop just before the half-hour mark when Barnetta picked out Chris Pontius with space on the left side of the box. Philadelphia’s leading scorer put a blistering strike on frame, but Kann did well to cut off the angle and block the attempt.

Espinoza nearly fired his side ahead in spectacular fashion just seconds after the restart, unleashing a 25-yard missile that flashed inches wide of the right upright with goalkeeper Andre Blake rooted to the spot.

The complexion of the match would change significantly after Medranda was issued his second yellow card from referee Juan Guzman. Vermes was accordingly forced to make his first substitution, giving left back Ever Alvarado his MLS debut. Despite the setback, Dom Dwyer ran onto the end of a great scoring chance in the 65th minute when he turned away from the Union defense and hammered just wide of the far post with his patented left boot.

Up a man and in the ascendancy, Philadelphia drew first blood in the 67th minute thanks to a fantastic 22-yard curler from Alberg, who had entered the contest just two minutes earlier. It was the Dutchman’s ninth MLS goal of the year, all of which have come since the start of June.

Sporting Kansas City almost fell two behind in the 84th minute if not for a world-class save from Kann. Charlie Davies’ low cross was steered goalward by Sapong, but Kann stuck out his right hand to touch the ball over the crossbar and deny the Philadelphia forward a goal against his former club.

Controversy clouded the affair in the 86th minute when Espinoza saw straight red from Guzman after innocuously extending his arm in a duel with Alberg. The Union subsequently added a second goal in the 92nd minute after Barnetta finished off a neat combination with Alberg.

Having traveled roughly 15,000 miles over the last three weeks, Sporting Kansas City now enters the September international break as FIFA World Cup qualifiers resume in the CONCACAF region. Besler and Zusi represented the United States Men's National Team at the 2016 Copa America Centenario in June and are in contention to join the squad when head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announces his roster on Sunday at approximately 2 p.m.

Sporting Kansas City returns to MLS action on Friday, Sept. 9 when the club hosts rivals Houston Dynamo at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the match can be secured at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.

2016 MLS Regular Season
Game 28 of 34
Talen Energy Stadium | Chester, Pennsylvania
Attendance: 17,911
Weather: 76 degrees and partly cloudy

Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (11-12-5, 38 pts) 0 0 0
Philadelphia Union (11-9-7, 40 pts) 0 2 2

Sporting Kansas City: Alec Kann; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda; Benny Feilhaber (Brad Davis 77), Soni Mustivar (Diego Rubio 91+), Roger Espinoza (C); Jacob Peterson (Ever Alvarado 61), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Subs Not Used: Jon Kempin, Paulo Nagamura, Emmanuel Appiah, Connor Hallisey

Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Joshua Yaro, Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Alejandro Bedoya, Warren Creavalle, Fabian Herbers (Roland Alberg 65), Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius (Charlie Davies 79); C.J. Sapong
Subs Not Used: John McCarthy, Raymon Gaddis, Ken Tribbett, Leo Fernandes, Walter Restrepo

Stats SKC PHI
Shots 10 12
Shots on Goal 2 8
Saves 6 2
Fouls 11 17
Offside 1 0
Corner Kicks 4 4

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; dissent) 20
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda (caution; unsporting behavior) 20
PHI -- Warren Creavalle (caution; unsporting behavior) 51
SKC -- Jimmy Medranda (ejection, second caution; unsporting behavior) 59
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (ejection; violent conduct) 87
PHI -- Alejandro Bedoya (caution; unsporting behavior) 93+

Scoring Summary:
PHI -- Roland Alberg 9 (Fabinho 4) 67
PHI -- Tranquillo Barnetta 4 (Roland Alberg 3) 92+