The Philadelphia Union took on Orlando City in a game with massive playoff implications and laid an egg in a 2-0 loss.
Going into this game the Philadelphia Union knew that a win would all but guarantee them a spot in the MLS playoffs. And it’s clear that they knew that because they started the match with extra energy creating chances right out of the gate. The Philadelphia Union had Orlando on their heels, the one issue is that they didn’t have a goal to show for their efforts.
They had the better chances to start out the game but the biggest one came in the 16th minute against the run of play but C.J. Sapong fired a header wide. The Union kept creating chances but each ended with a misfire or a shot directly at Joe Bendik.
With each missed chance, Orlando’s confidence grew and they began to settle into the game. At the half, neither team had a shot on target but Orlando outshot the Union 4-3 and looked like the more likely side to score a goal.
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This isn’t what was expected during the most important game to be played in Chester in five years. The Union just had to win and they would clinch their first playoff berth since 2011, their second year of existence.
In the second half, things went from bad to worse when Carlos Rivas scored a goal, that was later credited as an own goal to Keegan Rosenberry, on a defensive gaffe. Fabinho lost Rivas in transition in the 59th minute, leaving him wide open to shoot. Rosenberry tried to clear the ball, which was going in anyway but ended up kicking it into the net which is why he was credited with an own goal.
On his goal, Rivas said, “They came out with the same conviction as us but we were able to perform better in the game. We were able to capitalize on our opportunities and that was the difference in the end.”
In the 67th minute, the Philadelphia Union created their best chance via a Fabian Herbers cross. That cross found Chris Pontius but he was denied via a Joe Bendik save. Andre Blake did his best superman impression in the 78th minute to keep the scoreline at 1-0 to deny Julio Baptista of a goal.
After that, there was a scary moment in the 90th minute when Sapong went down in a challenge in the 90th minute. Defending against an Orlando City corner, Sapong was taken out by Ken Tribbett but he was able to continue on in the game which was a good thing since the Union had used all of their subs at that point.
In the 93rd minute, the Union missed another chance to equalize as Tranquillo Barnetta had a free header from the center of the box missed to the left. This was from a cross that was initiated by Alejandro Bedoya. In the post game presser, that miss came up and Barnetta took full ownership saying,
"“Even though I had a good header, a free header. If I would be able to make headers, then maybe we’d tie this game, but at the end, everybody has to stand up now for next week and make a better performance against New York.”"
That statement is the true embodiment of what it means to be a captain as well as another one of the many things that the Philadelphia Union will be missing when he returns home. He took ownership and then turned it into a rally cry to motivate the team for next week.
Sadly, it couldn’t help the team tonight as in the 94th minute, Baptista iced the game for Orlando with a strike that just squirmed under Andre Blake’s body. That was all she wrote for the Philadelphia Union but they got good news from a 10-man Chicago Fire side.
The Fire beat the New England Revolution 2-1 meaning that next week no matter what the Union do they will be in the playoffs unless the Revolution make up a 12 goal gap in goal differential. This would likely lead to a matchup with Toronto FC who are a side that the Union have struggled against in the playoffs.
Up next week is a matchup against the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union would like a result in that match to enter the playoffs on a strong note. That isn’t lost on Keegan Rosenberry who said,
"“It’s motivation. Obviously the past five, six, whatever it is games haven’t been good enough for us. I especially think it’s important going into the playoffs and being in the right kind of form, not necessarily in results, but in terms of the way the games are going and the consistency of performances for us.”"
At this point the Union are reeling having only collected two points in their last six matches and time is running out to right the ship. That time is now and they’ve got to change things against NYRB but we’ll have to wait until next week to see if they do.