CHESTER, Pa. — The unlikeliest of heroes for the Philadelphia Union popped up in a key spot for the second consecutive game.
Forward Jay Simpson, who played 39 minutes before Wednesday’s win in Seattle, scored a pair of goals in a starting role in the Union’s 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon.
Simpson was among several reserves inserted into the Union’s starting lineup in order to rest some of the starters ahead of Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup final against the Houston Dynamo.
“We followed up what you would call our biggest win of the season in Seattle with an even bigger one,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Really proud of the players. Before the game, we were talking about what it means to be a true team, and I think that what I meant by that and what I explained in the pregame talk is that any 11 guys that are together and fighting for each other, attacking and defending with belief, can beat any group of talented players.”
“That’s a really good Kansas City team, one of the top teams in the Western Conference, and for the guys to have the performance that they had, I couldn’t be more proud,” Curtin said.
The victory also kept the Union (14-12-4) within one point of the Columbus Crew, who they’ll play in their next league game on Saturday.
Simpson’s opening tally was produced by Auston Trusty and Alejandro Bedoya in the 71st minute. Trusty’s free kick from just inside midfield found Bedoya’s head on the right side of the penalty area.
Bedoya’s header landed at the feet of Simpson, who one-timed a volley into the left side of the net for the second goal of his MLS career.
The home side enjoyed the better share of significant chances in the first half, but Jim Curtin’s men couldn’t convert on any of them.
Sep 23, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Sporting Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic (15) runs the ball past Philadelphia Union midfielder Fabian Herbers (14) during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
In the 10th minute, Simpson, who appeared to be offside, was denied from close range by Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Fabian Herbers’ shot in the 36th minute ignited a bizarre sequence in which his shot deflected off the crossbar and Melia’s back foot before Seth Sinovic cleared Simpson’s shot off the line.
The Union thought they had a penalty right before halftime, when Olivier Mbaizo was tumbled over by Matt Besler, but to the chagrin of the fans at Talen Energy Stadium, referee Mark Geiger didn’t signal for a spot kick.
Sporting Kansas City (15-8-6) created the first major chance of the second stanza in the 54th minute, as Felipe Gutierrez got his head on the ball on the left side of the penalty area.
Union goalkeeper John McCarthy dove to his left to send the Chilean’s effort wide to the right of the net.
After handing the Union the lead. Simpson doubled his scoring haul in the 90th minute, coolly finishing a Bedoya pass into the right side of the net past Melia.
“Delighted to get the goals,” Simpson said. “I think it was good movement from Ale to pick me out, especially for the second goal. Just happy I was able to be in the right place at the right time.”
Sporting KC has a full week off before hosting Real Salt Lake next Sunday in its quest to secure the top seed in the Western Conference standings.