It's hard to be mad after this result. A 2-1 loss to New York has knocked the Union out of the playoffs, one game shy of a MLS Cup appearance.
The Union were down 11 players in total, 6 of them being starters, and they still fought until the very end against a very good team. At the end of the day, the guys that came in and carried the load for the players out deserve all the praise in the world. This was an incredible season, and under these circumstances, all we could ask for is that our guys gave it their all on the biggest stage.
Guys like Aurelien Collin, Stuart Findlay and Nathan Harriel played unbelievable games after barely playing all season. Jack McGlynn is 17 years old and it felt like he might have been the best player on the field in the first half. So much to be proud of, and every guy that played today should keep their heads high. It just sucks so much for the guys who grinded out all year and had to watch this game from the sidelines. Worst timing in sports history.
Although the scoreline of this first half was 0-0, it felt like ether side could have had 2-3 goals. I'd say the Union were the better team, specifically for that run they made in the last 15 minutes of the half, but it's not like they dominated. The first 25 minutes of the half were relatively even, with no team really having a close chance. Both teams were the victim of bad foul calls by the referees, and the Union clearly tried to be more physical than New York from minute one. New York clearly had more skill and talent then the Union, so I loved the intensity that this team had the entire game. Maxi Morales picked up a lot of early fouls, which was a result of the tone that the Union were playing with. The only real scare for either side to me was when Leon Flach caught the NY defense napping in the 44th minute, making a tackle on a dangerous pass at the top of the box which almost caught Sean Johnson off guard. I thought it would have been super important for the Union to grab a first half goal, just because if they went into the half 1-0 they could gameplan well enough to keep that lead. Let me sneak in a little Findlay and Collin love here, because both of them have barely played at all and put in some of the best performances for a Union player in these playoffs. Collin is a surprisingly aggressive defender, and it never failed him in this game.
Let the floodgates open. Both these teams turned the aggression up a notch heading into this half, knowing that whoever grabbed the opening goal might be in the driver's seat to win the game. It may have taken a while, but the Union finally got a breakthrough almost halfway through the 2nd. In the 63rd minute, Daniel Gazdag whipped a ball into the box and Alexander Callens knocked it in the next with heavy pressure on him from Kacper Przybylko.
Daniel Gazdag deserves a lot of credit for that unbelievable ball into the box, which was inches from Kacper's foot anyway. I know he really had nothing to do with this goal, but contrary to the belief of Union fans, I actually thought he had a good game overall today. He was way more aggressive on 50/50 balls, winning most of them in the process. I get it, his job it to score goals and he didn't do that, but I really don't remember him having a chance that he clearly missed or made the wrong decision. I think he definitely would've benefited with a Sergio Santos or Cory Burke today, since he felt like more of a setup striker then a finisher. The Union had gone up 1-0, Subaru Park was into the game more then ever and the Union had all the momentum, but just two minutes later NYCFC came right back down the other end and scored the equalizer through Moralez.
It's hard to place blame on any one person for this goal, but if you are Matt Freese you kind of have to ether catch that ball or not put it back into the middle. Also Olivier Mbaizo gets completely caught napping on this goal, with Moralez sneaking right behind him for the tidy finish. This feels like last season's Union, who would always get too cocky after a goal and would concede soon after. The Union were doing a really good job with Morales in the first half, and for him to be the one who is gonna score really hurts. Although this goal scoring barraging seemed like it meant more were coming, as the half went on it felt like this game was destined for extra time. Jesus Bueno came on for Jack McGlynn and Matt Freese made a really good save to keep the Union in it, but both teams just couldnt find a breakthrough. The Union's offense just felt super stale to finish this game, with no one really taking charge on attack. But alas, New York took advantage of a defensive mistake to score the winner in the 88th minute.
I really don't want to pile on the kid hard, since he had a good season filling in for Gaddis, but... what are you doing there Mbaizo? Late in the game when the ball is in a dangerous spot like that, you get that out by any means necessary. Even if that means going out for a corner, that's better then giving them a free opportunity. This game looked like it was surely heading to extra time, and that one mistake cost the Union their season. I also didn't understand why the Union just started booting the ball up to Kacper in those final 6 minutes instead of actually trying to build an attack, but I guess it's not a big deal in the scheme of things. The Union lose 2-1 and NYCFC advance.
I'm just super proud of all the guys that stepped in and played their role today. I really did not expect the game to be that close, and it's mostly credit to the defenders who stepped in and contained the NY attack.
At the end of the day, it just stings even more since the Union easily could have won this game. I don't think it's fair for a team to have to play without 11 of their players, but that is a different argument. I never expected the Union to show this amount of fight in the face of adversity, and they have to keep their heads high after this result.
This team will be back. I'd bet that they'll have even more fire in them after they were eliminated due to factors that they could not control. Although some things have changed, a lot stay the same. The Union still need a DP striker, the defense carried them to the promised land and Jim Curtin didn't make enough subs all season long.
But those are offseason questions, and I'll just end with giving credit to everyone on this team. The roster, staff, executives and the fans for putting together the best season in Union history. No one expected Philadelphia to go this far considering their grueling CCL schedule, but they were able to finish second in the conference and make a deep run. Unfortunately, due to health and safety protocols, we'll just leave this season with one question.