Zusi inspires Sporting KC rally over Union in MLS season opener

By MICHAEL KLINE

The Philadelphia Union got off to a strong start in the 2013 MLS season opener, but Graham Zusi and Sporting Kansas City made sure they were the ones to take all three points at PPL Park.

Inspired by a goal and two assists from Zusi, Sporting KC rallied from a poor first half and defeated the Union, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon. Philadelphia initially went ahead on a goal from fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux, but Zusi was able to shift the momentum in the visitors’ favor when he netted on a rebound just before halftime.

Zusi then went on to help set up two goals in a second half that was much different from the opening 45 minutes, with Uri Rosell and Designated Player Claudio Bieler providing the finishes in front of 18,000-plus Union fans.

Sporting KC came into the match at the top of the Eastern Conference in nearly every preseason prediction panel, but they struggled throughout much of the first half against Philadelphia.

Within three minutes, Gabriel Farfan was through on goal and forced Jimmy Nielsen to parry his shot away. Sebastien Le Toux was there for a rebound, but did poorly and hit it wide.

Through the first 10 minutes it was all Philadelphia and the Union finally found the breakthrough shortly thereafter. Keon Daniel found a good pocket of space and sent in a wonderfully weighted over-head through ball to fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux, who took it down magically and beat Nielsen on his near post.

Sporting KC struggled on the ball, with their midfielders having difficulty finding space, connecting on passes and moving the ball forward. The defenders were being eaten alive on long balls, and Farfan, in particular, was having a field day down the left hand side.

The Union, on the other hand, looked sharp. They were winning all of the 50-50 challenges and were out-hustling the opposition. The hosts’ efforts almost paid off a second time when a defense-splitting run from Sheanon Williams put Le Toux in perfect position to bag a second, but the French striker pulled it wide, an attempt he surely wished he had back.

After withstanding the Philadelphia onslaught, Kansas City managed to find the equalizer against the run of play. On their first real attack of the match, Bobby Convey put a threatening cross into the box which Claudio Bieler headed down into the path of Benny Feilhaber. The American playmaker’s shot went right at goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but the rebound landed at the feet of Zusi before being calmly blasted into the top right corner to make things level going into halftime.

The second half began with Philadelphia retreating and it was clear that Sporting KC’s goal just before half crushed their momentum. Philadelphia looked lazy and uninterested, a stark contract from their first half performance.

All of the pressing the Union midfielders and forwards did in the first 45 wore them out for the second half and the midfield battle was quickly lost. It was only a matter of time before Sporting KC scored again, and they did in the 65th minute.

After being substituted into the match three minutes earlier, C.J. Sapong won a free kick in a dangerous area of Philadelphia’s half. Kansas City then doubled their lead when Zusi fired the set piece into the box and Oriol Rosell headed it into an empty net. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath played the cross extremely poorly, getting caught in the crowd and was left watching as the ball slowly bounced into the net.

Momentum had completely turned and Philadelphia looked out of the match. The result was just a formality at that point and it was made official when Bieler scored the visitors’ third. Following another Zusi cross, Chance Myers cut the ball across the box to an unmarked Claudio Bieler, who slotted it home on his Sporting Kansas City debut to ensure the victory for his new club.

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What do you think of Sporting KC’s 3-1 win over the Union? Who impressed/disappointed you? Optimistic about Philadelphia this season after seeing those opening 45 minutes?

Share your thoughts below.

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33 Responses to Zusi inspires Sporting KC rally over Union in MLS season opener

  1. A says:

    Freddy Adu is laughing all the way to the bank.

    Hackworth makes it 10 games–tops. No idea how you can possibly say Freddy Adu is not in your plans when that is the performance you come out with. It was really great watching the “hard working” Union attacking players who according to the coach have the work ethic that Adu doesn’t. That work ethic really helped you when they were sucking air in the second half and the more composed, smart SKC just rolled over you.

    • JoeSchmoe says:

      I’m afraid Hackworth is soon going to learn how little great “work ethic” matters when it isn’t accompanied by technical ability.

      I have no qualms saying Freddy Adu would have been their best player once again. Ill take high technical ability and vision over “he never stops running” 10 times out of 10.

      Have to feel for Philly fans. No break.

      • PD says:

        I said something similar on another thread, please forgive the redundancy to those who already read these thoughts.

        I get that this was KC, but this Philly team is much better than they showed today. Sorry, but the most impressive element of the Union today was their jersey.

        This team was not ready for opening day. The lineup was a throwback to the headscratcher specials of the Nowak era. It seems like Philly fans have gone from having to put up with sub-par performances from Nowak’s guys to dealing with sup-par performances from Hack’s guys.

        Unless McInerney, Soumare and Casey were hurt, THERE IS NO reason at least one of them isn’t in your starting XI above Lahoud, Daniels and Garfan.

        Memo to Hackworth, your pet projects are not starting material yet, and you have players on your roster who are. Your #1 keeper still flaps at crosses like he’s in high school ball, gets caught out of position, cannot organize his lines and hesitates on set piece decisions. Your “string puller” Marfan is still not the creative maestro you seem to think he is and frankly I don’t think he ever will be. Set pieces are still a disaster, even with a veteran like Parke on the pitch. Oh and your vaunted “work ethic” is non-existant after 30 minutes or after a shift in momentum. Leaders abosrb that.

        Disappointing all around.

        • PD says:

          And to be clear this is not about getting Adu on the pitch. Torres JackMac and no Lahoud would be plenty.

  2. Jon says:

    Zusi was massive. Benny was invisible.

    KC scoring 3 away from home is a pretty big deal after their scoring issues last year.

  3. Chris R says:

    Adu is by far the best player in philly, to keep him off the team while still owning his contract…… just ridiculous.

  4. Ryan nanez says:

    Lol the dudes above me. Shut up about Freddy adu

  5. Dude Lebowski says:

    The Union looked great running a high press in the first 30 minutes. The last 30 minutes showed which team was better prepared to run a high press style for a full 90.

  6. Andrew says:

    anyone who says freddy adu is the unions best player has never watched a union game. look up how many MOTM performances he has. not to say he shouldn’t be starting, but calm down/

    • bizzy says:

      Andrew evidently you are the one not keeping up with Philly.
      1. Why is it when it comes to Freddy Adu people are always looking for “man of the Match” performances? When was the last time you hear Brek Shea have a MOTM performance….but he is with Stoke….and Wondo with all his goals/records is still is SJ and cant even make the national team.
      2. What other player has more highlight performance videos than Adu on Philly (the man exposed Philly’s lack of ability to put the ball in the back of the net…single handedly)
      3. No player on the Union roster and VERY few players in MLS can dismantle a team the way Adu did against NYRB and Toronto FC last season.
      4. If you were the best Technician, accountant, Engineer, Nurse etc….at a job, you need to be treated as such, with a leadership roll to remain motivated and productive….not be like the union and pick players that haven’t even recently played for a national team…any national team squad, to play key/central roles on the team…..especially in midfield
      Expectations are so unrealistic when it comes to Freddy Adu…….any player with half his ability/skill would be considered a good soccer player in MLS

      • Not This Again says:

        Bizzy – you bring up a great point about Adu. If you watched him and ALL of the Union games last year, you would realized that the 2 matches you mention – NYRB & TFC – were the only games Adu actually showed up and played in.

        The others, well he stood there, getting dispossessed of the ball time after time. That’s fine if you are making league minimum but not when you are a DP.

        9 teams in 9 years – yeah, its the coach and team’s fault!

        • bizzy says:

          If Adu was promised 500K thats what he get, playing of not, if the former coach promised to bring Adu in and build a team around him that’s what he should expected, what DP do you know that plays in this league from the wing that didn’t play in that position prior, none, if you expect Adu to turn water into wine play him as a CAM and not on the wing especially with Le Toux/ Casey in the mix, if you are looking for a miracle find players who don’t miss in front of goal or who are not constantly a step late/early throughout the game….. over 14 chances missed by union forwards after brilliant passing will make any person lose drive and ambition to push forward…especially doing so from the wing. If you sucked, changed things around and you still suck, you have to ask yourself where the problem is because evidently with Adu gone its still there.
          9 teams in 9 years is true, talent/skill has nothing to do with it, look at Giovani dos Santos Ramírez (MEX) same age, similar skill set to Adu…..6 teams in 6 years, no more than 17 appearance a years for any of the teams he’s played for after Barcelona (yes Barcelona, 28 apps)….Tottenham, Ipswich Town (loan), Galatasaray (loan), Racing Santander (loan), Mallorca…..yet he is constantly picked for a national team that is 15th in the world and he has a habit of destroying/embarassing the US defense…so talent/skill has nothing to do with team swapping and play time

      • Andrew says:

        You mean the Red Bulls game where got he sent off in the first half after displaying his only good performance of the season?

        I didn’t know highlight reels were the way we measured how beneficial someone was to a team.

        Brek Shea used to win MOTM awards all of the time for Dallas. I don’t know what you are talking about there. He had a tough year last year but he was obviously signed for his performance in 2011, where he was in the MLS Best XI. Didn’t catch Freddy on that list last year.

        Like I said before, Freddy deserves to find time on the field. He clearly has potential, as you said. Notice I mentioned that I wouldn’t have a problem with him starting. But he wasn’t the Union’s best player last year. That would be Carlos Valdes or Michael Farfan, who earned All Star appearances for their consistent play. Valdes parleyed that hard work into a loan, boosting his chances of starting for Columbia in WCQ.

  7. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    Union looked great for about 30 mins. Then Graham Zusi happened.

  8. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    Also….Those SKC Jerseys….Clean.

  9. Big bill says:

    Not once during the match did I think to myself, “man, if only Adu were out there to grace us with his ‘three step overs,get dispossessed, fall down and wave at the ref’ skillset”. Please. Good riddance. Seba missed a sitter and we gave up some very bad goals. The only thing Adu can contribute to this team is salary relief. Is it 8 teams that have now concluded they were better off without him? Sure, they’re all wrong.

  10. DoctorD says:

    Zac MacMath lost the game for the Union. All three goals were due to his direct mistakes. Switch keepers and the Union win 3-1. Parke played well out there.

    Pathetic that some people think Freddy Adu has enough talent to play 1st-division soccer anywhere in the world.

  11. PD says:

    And Michael Farfan does compared to Adu and Torres? I don’t care about 1st division, I care about starting XI.

  12. Esteban de la Sexface says:

    Same goalkeeping problems for Philly. MacMath is a liability and is continuing his habit of giving away a goal per game.

    Brian Carroll is too one dimensional. All he can do is press and win the ball back. He can’t dribble or pass the ball forward.

    Philly defending was really slack on the first and third goals. Players were completely unmarked around the goal and Philly looked a bit clueless.

  13. Drew says:

    While I agree we dont need Adu to be successful, the 500k he takes up each year would be nice to have. MacMath looked really bad, but Carroll, Garfan, and Lahoud were ghosts.

    Hack brought on Jack Mac and Torres way too late… anyone who thinks Garfan or Lahoud deserved to be out there more than Adu just isnt a very good judge of talent. Funny how people say 9 years of his career… he was what 14?!?

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