CHESTER, Pa. — For four minutes, Sporting Kansas City looked like it might fall short in its mission to end the regular season with a win that could set the team up for the Supporters' Shield and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
When Jack McInerney streaked in and scored an 88th-minute equalizer, Sporting KC looked destined to settle for a draw, but Peter Vermes' squad never stopped playing and showed the resliency of a team capable of a championship run.
Lawrence Olum finished off a pass from Teal Bunbury in the second minute of second-half stoppage time for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory at PPL Park on Saturday.
The Union equalized late when McInerney raced onto a long headed pass to tie the match, but as Philadelphia pressed for a winning goal, it was Sporting KC that looked more dangerous in the closing minutes. Bunbury came on late and provided a real dangerous threat, forcing a big save from Zac MacMath a minute before setting up Olum's winning goal.
The victory pushes Sporting KC into first place in the Eastern Conference, and now KC must await the result of Sunday's match between the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire. A Red Bulls win would give them the Supporters' Shield and first place in the East, but a New York loss or draw would give Sporting KC the Shield and the top spot in the East heading into the playoffs.
After a scoreless first half, Graham Zusi opened the scoring just two minutes into the second when he headed home a Matt Besler throw-in deflected toward him by an Olum header. It was Zusi's career-high sixth goal of the season.
The Union trotted out an unconventional lineup, with Sebastien Le Toux and Jack McInerney on the bench to start the match, and with Amobi Okugo playing in central midfield rather than his usual center back role. The squad struggled to generate chances against Sporting KC's league-best defense, but Philly's attack showed more promise after going down a goal.
Union coach John Hackworth inserted McInerney and Roger Torres in the second half, as well as LeToux, and the inclusions did provide a spark, but Sporting KC's defense once again proved too tough to break through until McInerney found his opening late in the match.
Sporting KC can do no worse than second place in the Eastern Conference, meaning a guaranteed place in the East semifinals. By Sunday, if the Red Bulls lose or tie, Sporting KC could be lifting a Supporters' Shield and playing for the chance to host the 2013 MLS Cup final.
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