Two MLS Eastern Conference rivals, Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia Union, went head-to-head on Friday as both sides battled to keep their playoff hopes alive with the season end drawing dangerously near.
Prior to the match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, the two sides were separated by only one point in the standings, with Kansas City maintaining the third-best record in the conference and the automatic playoff position that comes with it.
Philadelphia hoped to take that position for themselves on the road, after falling to fourth in the conference, despite enjoying immense success and spectacular results early on in the 2011 campaign.
The opening period of the match was full of opportunities for both clubs, though neither side managed to capitalize on their chances. Philadelphia came close to opening their account early, however, when Sebastien Le Toux found space in the box, but sent his shot wide of the net.
Later in the half, a powerful header from Sporting midfielder Kei Kamara was skillfully put on frame, if just a bit high. The header bounced off the crossbar to preserve the 0-0 scoreline well into the second 45 minutes.
In the 56th minute, the home side struck first when Kamara's cross found Omar Bravo at the back post, who easily put it away for his ninth goal of the season.
Seven minutes later, Le Toux had another opportunity for Philadelphia when Michael Farfan found him in the box. This time, his attempt didn't go wide and the Union found their equalizing goal.
The 1-1 final result allows Kansas City to retain their third-place position in the Eastern Conference standings—which would see them through to the playoffs if they can hold that spot for the next four games.
The Union still sit in a potential playoff position themselves, currently holding an MLS wild-card spot with a game in hand over Sporting.
Sporting KC: Omar Bravo (56')
Philadelphia: Sebastien Le Toux (63')
Sporting Kansas City Lineup:
Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, Jeferson, Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury
Subs: Aurelien Collin for Jeferson (46'), C.J. Sapong for Teal Bunbury (62'), Soony Saad for Omar Bravo (89')
Philadelphia Union Lineup:
Zac MacMath, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Kyle Nakazawa, Roger Torres, Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic
Subs: Jack McInerney for Veljko Paunovic (56'), Zach Pfeffer for Kyle Nakazawa (62'), Sefani Miglioranzi for Roger Torres (72')