Sporting Kansas City moved back into the Supporters' Shield lead with a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
Sporting KC will claim its first regular season title since 2000 if the New York Red Bulls lose or draw to the Chicago Fire on Sunday at Red Bull Arena (4 p.m. CT on UniMas).
Lawrence Olum's game-winning goal in the second minute of stoppage-time gave Sporting KC three points in its regular season finale. Sporting KC improved its league-best road record to 8-5-4 and remain one of two teams in MLS with a positive goal differential away from home (+3).
Sporting KC finished the season with 30 goals allowed, the second consecutive year the team has led MLS in that category.
Saturday's match featured a flurry of chances for both teams. Sporting KC had two good looks on goal in the first half, but Dom Dwyer pulled his 14th-minute shot just wide of the post and goalkeeper Zac MacMath did well to thwart Jacob Peterson in the 23rd minute.
The visitors broke the deadlock minutes after halftime. Matt Besler's long throw-in found Olum at the near post. The Kenyan midfielder out-jumped his defender and headed the ball to the back post. Graham Zusi snuck past Antoine Hoppenot and headed the ball into the net for his sixth goal of the season and the first headed goal of his MLS career.
Needing a win to keep playoffs hopes alive, Philadelphia brought on MLS All-Star Jack McInerney in the second half and the move nearly paid immediate dividends. In the 76th minute, Sheanon Williams' long throw-in dropped inside the Sporting KC penalty box. The young striker put his attempt on target but Seth Sinovic alertly stayed on his line to head the ball away from danger.
Philadelphia was not to be denied, however, and found its equalizer in the 88th minute. After the ball ping-ponged inside the Sporting KC penalty box, Jeff Parke headed the ball between two Sporting KC defenders. McInerney darted through the box and slotted past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen for his 12th goal of the season.
The drama was not over at PPL Park, however. In the 91st minute, second-half sub Teal Bunbury slotted a ball across the penalty box to Jacob Peterson. The speedy winger fired a shot on target but goalkeeper Zac MacMath did well to parry it away.
Less than a minute later, though, Sporting KC found the game-winning goal. The play began when Nielsen sent a long punt down the right flank to Peterson. The Indiana University product's cross took a deflection and landed at the foot of Bunbury. The young striker played the ball back to Olum and his one-time finish beat MacMath for the game-winning goal.
Depending on results from other matches in MLS this weekend, Sporting KC can play any of four teams in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Final seeding will be determined at the conclusion of the New York - Chicago game on Sunday afternoon. Regardless of results, if Sporting KC reaches MLS Cup then Sporting Park will be the host of the championship match.
Sporting KC playoff tickets will go on sale to the public on Tuesday at 10 a.m. via Ticketmaster.com. Sporting KC will be the host for the Eastern Conference Semifinals second leg on either Nov. 6 or Nov. 7.
- Story from Sporting KC