Say goodbye to playoff dreams.
Despite being in a great position a few months ago, the Union's wheels came completely undone, culminating in a 2-1 defeat this afternoon at Saputo Stadium and the assurance that barring a miracle of laughable improbability, the Union will be missing out on the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The first chance of the game went to Montreal. Justin Mapp found Marco Di Vaio with a pass but Di Vaio flubbed the chance. The Union's first real opportunity came nine minutes later. Conor Casey did excellent work to find Kleberson near the edge of the box but Kleberson's attempt on goal was blocked and went out for a corner kick.
In the 21st minute, Montreal, whose sole plan of attack in the first half was to slowly find Di Vaio in the box and watch Di Vaio in the box, found Di Vaio in the box but he fluffed the shot.
The Philadelphia Union earned themselves a corner in the 24th minute. Fabinho took it, found Casey's head in the box, but Casey could only direct the ball off the woodwork. One minute later, Jack McInerney played a fantastic through ball to Fabinho who could only fall down in the box with it. No penalty was earned, and a golden opportunity appeared to go begging.
Despite the Union having the better chances through the first 25 minutes, the hosts looked like an exceptionally poor squad, and it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Union could break through. Indeed, it did not take much longer for the Union to open the scoring. Kleberson played a magnificent through ball to Fabinho who came up with a beautiful strike beating Montreal keeper Troy Perkins. The moment of magic gave the Union a much needed lead.
The most unfortunate moment for the Union came in the 40th minute when Union captain and defensive midfield iron man Brian Carroll foolishly picked up a yellow card, ensuing his suspension in the Union's season finale next Saturday at PPL Park versus Sporting Kansas City.
The Union would generate one more opportunity in the first half. Casey did excellent to get away from three defenders, including Alessandro Nesta, crossed it to Danny Cruz, but Cruz's ensuing shot missed the mark completely.
The Union entered the locker room at half time up 1-0 and feeling pretty good about themselves. The inclusion of Kleberson once again in the starting line-up gave a normally defensively sound team a creative force in the attacking third, and the hosts had appeared old, slow, and punchless in the first 45.
But then the second half started. The Union were no near near as crisp as they were in the first half and the Montreal Impact actually began to once again resemble an actual soccer team. And in the 64th minute, Marco Di Vaio made magic happen. Felipe passed the ball to Di Vaio, in space, the ex-Serie A striker made no mistake about it. His goal evened the ledger at one and the Impact never looked back.
As punchless as Montreal were in the first half, the Union were equally punchless in the second half. And that faint glimpse of reasonable hope that would have remained had the Union managed a draw at Saputo evaporated when a free kick from Justin Mapp found a completely unmarked Karl Ouimette who found the back of the net for the match winner.
The Union never came close to bringing the game back to level. And with that the Union's playoff chances were dashed to oblivion silently screaming over missed opportunities and failed chances.
With today's defeat, it is virtually impossible for the Union to qualify for the playoffs. According to Kevin Kinkead, the following needs to happen for the Union to make the playoffs.
Basically Philly has to win vs. KC and Chicago and Houston need to lose out.— Kevin Kinkead (@PhilUnionKevinK) October 19, 2013
I'll eat my own nads if this series of events transpires.
[ADDENDUM, SUNDAY 6:14 PM: Chicago Fire defeated Toronto last night 1-0, and this afternoon saw New York Red Bulls obliterate Houston Dynamo 3-0. As we head into the final weekend, this is what needs to happen for the Union to qualify for the playoffs.
Here's how Philly gets into the playoffs: 1. Beat KC 2. Houston loses to DC 3. New england loses to columbus— Kevin Kinkead (@PhilUnionKevinK) October 20, 2013
Union can get in with a Houston/DC draw and NE loss, but that would require winning the 'total goals' tiebreaker.— Kevin Kinkead (@PhilUnionKevinK) October 20, 2013
Issue right now is that New England has 48 goals scored. Houston has 39 and Philly 41. Union probably ain't beating KC 8-0 at home.— Kevin Kinkead (@PhilUnionKevinK) October 20, 2013
BUT - if Houston and DC draw, Union can still get in if the Dynamo can't score 2 or more goals.— Kevin Kinkead (@PhilUnionKevinK) October 20, 2013
Obviously this scenario is not all that likely, but it is also not impossible and there is a scenario where all the Union need out of United is simply hold on for a home draw. But of course all of this is beyond moot if the Union can't get the full three points at home verse Sporting Kansas City, not a given, even with the Union already beating them and SKC coming into the game playing mid-week and having already clinched a playoff spot.]
Up next for the Union, what will ultimately end up being a glorified friendly when the Philadelphia Union, seeking all the pride that comes with being 11th best in MLS, takes on a Sporting Kansas City side, seeking all the pride that comes along with not going 100% in preparation for the playoffs and still being at the very least competitive with an MLS side. The best news of all? The game will shown on national television on NBC Sports Network. Woohoo. Go team.