Saturday, March 02, 2013

Nielsen ruins Le Toux's return at Sporting K.C. roars back to top Union

Sporting K.C. goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen
By John McMullen

CHESTER, Pa (The Phanatic Magazine) - The face of the franchise was back in Chester on Saturday but Jimmy Nielsen wasn't in the mood for any storybook endings.

The Sporting K.C. goalkeeper was brilliant, keeping his club in the match before veteran striker Graham Zusi scored a goal and added an assist as Kansas City roared back to earn a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in the 2013 MLS opener for both clubs.

Sebastien Le Toux, the Union's all-time leading scorer, returned after a year in exile and put Philadelphia ahead 1-0 in the 17th minute, sending the PPL Park crowd of 18,160 into a frenzy.

Midfielder Keon Daniel found Le Toux on the right side of the box with a brilliant crossing pass and the Frenchman beat Nielsen on the short side.

The Union continued to dominate for most of the first half, tilting the frigid pitch at PPL and playing most of the frame in Sporting K.C.'s end. After Le Toux's marker, though, Nielsen took over.

In the 23rd minute a pinching Sheanon Williams outraced the K.C. defense and fed Le Toux, who had another nice look but slipped it wide as Nielsen did a nice job cutting down the angle.

Speedy Union defender Ray Gaddis was taken down in the 27th minute resulting in a nice bending free kick by Michael Farfan but Nielsen was up to the task again, swatting it away.

Two minutes later it was Amobi Okugo's turn with a good look inside the box but Nielsen stymied the Union attack again.

The missed opportunities would come back to haunt Philadelphia in the 42nd minute when Michael Lahoud and Williams got crossed up on the right side, a miscue that resulted in Union netminder Zac MacMath stopping a point blank shot by Benny Feilhaber. The rebound, however, found Zusi, who deposited it in
the open net to even things at one apiece.

“Everything we thought we could take advantage of worked and it didn’t just work for a couple minutes it worked for almost the first half,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “If we executed on the chances that we had, we walk into halftime up two, maybe three goals and unfortunately that didn’t happen. Then it’s a matter of us managing the game, reading critical moments and execution and on the flip side that’s what Sporting KC did tonight.”

Kansas City took the lead in the 66th minute when Oriol Rosell headed a perfect Zusi set piece off a free kick past MacMath.

Jack McInerney, the Union's leading scorer in 2012 with eight goals, came on as a substitution in the 70th minute for Gabriel Farfan and had a pair of opportunities to even things but Nielsen was up to the task.

Claudio Bieler finally sealed things for Sporting K.C. in the 83rd minute easily beating an out of position MacMath for the 3-1 advantage.

Nielsen faced 11 shots in the first half and 17 overall, including five on goal while MacMath saw just seven shots and three of the four on the mark found the net.

“I’m looking at stats here and we have attempts on goal 17 [in favor of the Union] and they have seven,” Hackworth said. “We pushed the game the right way we did what we wanted to do, it’s just that at the end of the day we just didn’t execute.”


*The Union's other substitutions were Roger Torres for Lahoud in the 80th minute and Conor Casey for Daniel in the 84th.

*Le Toux was brought back in a trade from Red Bull New York and netted 25 markers 20 assists for the Union during the franchise's first two seasons.

“I can’t think of any way to feel good about anything that just happened,” said Hackworth. “I am glad [Sebastien Le Toux] is here I am glad he scored a goal in his first game back, but this is a team sport and from our perspective it’s unacceptable to play at PPL Park and lose the way we did.”

*Overall, Sporting now holds a 4-1-3 lead in the all-time series between the clubs.

Sporting Kansas City 3, Philadelphia Union 1

Saturday, March 2; 4:00 p.m.

PPL Park, Chester, Pa.


PHI: Le Toux (Daniel), 17’

SKC: Zusi (unassisted), 41

SKC: Rosell (Zusi), 66'

SKC: Bieler (Myers), 83'


SKC: Collin (caution), 25'

SKC: Convey (caution), 56'

PHI: Gaddis (caution), 89'


MacMath, Williams, Okugo, Parke, Gaddis, Carroll, Lahoud (Torres, 80’), G. Farfan, (McInerney, 20’), M. Farfan, Daniel (Casey, 84’), Le Toux


Nielsen, Collin, Myers (Mechack, 89’), Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber (Peterson, 82’), Convey (Sapong, 63’), Zusi, Bieler

Time: 1:52.

Referee: Mark Geiger, Adam Wienckowski, Gregory Barkley, Ted Unkel
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