Marco Fabian given red card as Union lose to Sporting Kansas City

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Marco Fabian given red card as Union lose to Sporting Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ilie Sanchez scored on a penalty kick in the 11th minute, Tim Melia saved a penalty kick and Sporting Kansas City beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0 on Sunday.

Sporting KC also picked up an own goal off Union defender Jack Elliott in the 80th minute.

Melia's save came late in the first half when he dove to his right to stop Marco Fabian. Fabian, who scored the Union's only goal on a penalty in their season opener, was given a red card in the 60th.

Melia, who made four saves for his 40th career shutout in the regular season, has eight saves in 20 penalty kicks, three more PK saves than any other active MLS goalkeeper. Melia also punched away a shot from Cory Burke early in the second half.

Just after Fabian was sent off, Sporting KC's Graham Zusi sent a free kick from just outside the box off the bar. The clinching goal came when Gerso Fernandes sent a cross out front that went off Elliott, leaving keeper Andre Blake no chance.

Both teams lost their opener.

Union surging into U.S. Open Cup final, 'deserve to be' the champs

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Union surging into U.S. Open Cup final, 'deserve to be' the champs

CHESTER, Pa. — With back-to-back wins over two of the league’s hottest teams, the Union are heading into their third U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday with the wind at their back.

“This group deserves to be champion,” boasted Fabinho, who captained the Union’s largely reserve squad on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium. “We know how hard we work every day, everybody. We deserve to be champion on Wednesday and we are ready for this game.”

The confidence was palpable following a 2-0 win over Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. Saving the legs of almost all consistent starters, and with goalkeeper Andre Blake falling ill just before kickoff, the Union went with a largely untested group and came out with the victory, thanks to a pair of second-half goals from Jay Simpson.

Other than Simpson and Fabinho, the list of Union starters included Oliver Mbaizo, making his MLS debut, Derrick Jones, Warren Creavalle and John McCarthy.

“We’re on a good run of form at the moment,” said Simpson, who made his first start of the season on Sunday and also contributed to the Union’s midweek win in Seattle against the Sounders. “I’m sure a lot of people didn’t even fancy us to get a result today with our starters missing out on the game because of the Open Cup. We beat some big sides.”

With one loss in their last eight matches, the Union are surging into the title game. Wednesday's match against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium will mark the third time the Union have appeared in the Open Cup championship since 2014. They’ve lost the other two - a fact fresh in the mind of Fabinho, who noted that the club's success of late has changed the dynamic.

“I feel different this year,” he said. “I don’t know why, I can’t say how or why, but I feel different. I feel like we’ll be the champions, you know what I mean. I know the game will be very tough, I know Houston has a good team.”

More importantly, the past struggles have given the confident Union valuable perspective.

“We have guys who work here every day, some guys come here at 5 AM to work for us, help us,” Fabinho said. “The fans are here every weekend, the staff, we have a lot of people behind us. When we go for this game, we have to play like it’s the last game of our lives. It’s important for us, but it’s important for many people behind us.”

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

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CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg entered the game at the perfect time.

With his club holding the man advantage as a result of Jimmy Medranda’s second yellow card in the 57th minute, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped Alberg off the bench to replace Fabian Herbers in the 65th minute. 

Two minutes later, the Union took the lead. From the left side, Fabinho found Alberg at the top of the box, where he teed off a shot at that ripped past Alec Kann to open scoring in the eventual 2-0 Union win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

It was Alberg’s ninth goal of the season.

The Union now have wins in back-to-back games for the first time since March, pushing their record to 11-9-7 and temporarily jumping them over the New York Red Bulls for third in the Eastern Conference. SKC falls to 11-12-5.

Facing Sporting Kansas City at Talen Energy Stadium for the first time since the 2015 U.S. Open Cup title game, the Union, who lost that game in penalty kicks, wanted to dictate tempo. However, the club was unable to break down SKC’s stout midfield until the red cards started flying.

Already down a man, things began to unravel for SKC in the 87th minute, when Roger Espinoza was shown a straight red for tossing what appeared like an inadvertent elbow to the midsection of Alberg. 

In stoppage time, up two men, the Union put the exclamation point on the win. Alberg found Tranquillo Barnetta in an open pocket of the SKC defense, and with space, the Swiss veteran placed his shot to the right and in, sealing the 2-0 win.