Facing a win or go home situation against a team vying for the Supporters' Shield, the Union predictably went home, suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.
The game opened up with a frantic and frenetic pace. Despite not really getting much of anything on target, both teams tried to push forward and generate chances and it made for some exciting, if not always pretty, soccer.
The first real scoring opportunity of the game did not come until the 23rd minute when Jacob Peterson found himself receiving a free kick onside alone in front of Zac MacMath. What followed was an almost comic shot that sent the ball directly to the stomach of MacMath who successfully managed an easy catch.
In the 27th minute, the Union managed to beat Sporting's press but with Antoine Hoppenot streaking down the left side, no one was there to back him up over the middle and Hoppenot was left desperately attempting a curling shot that sailed harmlessly wide of the net.
Towards the end of the first half, Conor Casey had space down the left side outside the box, found Michael Farfan on the other who tried to cross it to a wide open Hoppenot. But with the net agape Farfan's cross could only sail over Hoppenot and away from goal. A golden opportunity for the Union had gone begging.
Throughout the first half, the Philadelphia Union and Antoine Hoppenot created much havoc for Aurelien Collin. Collin was notably frustrated throughout the first half of the match, but the Union were unable to capitalize on the scoreboard, although a scuffle with Casey toward the end of the first half did result in both combatants being shown yellow.
The Union had hung in there in the first half, but their hopes were instantly dashed when they were caught ball-watching on a throw-in and Graham Zusi had an easy goal off a flick from a throw-in. Not even two minutes into the second half and the Union found themselves up against it, needing two goals in 43 minutes plus stoppage time against a squad vying for the Supporters' Shield.
In the 61st minute, John Hackworth made some quizzical substitutions. He brought on Jack McInerney, who was oddly benched at the start of the game for Hoppenot, who despite missing some chances, had done a fair part to create havoc on the Sporting back line. Then in a move of true idiotic desperation, Hackworth brought on Roger Torres, a guy who had barely played all year, for Kleberson, a similar and more talented player who is much more talented and accomplished. Hackworth's final substitution came in the 70th minute when Sebastien Le Toux came on for Danny Cruz.
A few minutes after he came on, Le Toux had a good opportunity after receiving a cross in the box but he could not place his shot well and the effort went well wide. In the 76th minute, McInerney would properly sum up the second half of his season when with the ball at his feet, he scuffed a shot in the box. That it may have been blocked by the Sporting defense as well did Jack no favors, but the chance was still there and the shot still scuffed.
In the 89th minute, still needing two goals, the Union got one back. The ball had been pinging around in the Union's attacking third when eventually it reached Jeff Parke's head who sent it to McInerney who beat Jimmy Nielsen to draw the Union level in the game and needing one more goal without conceding to make the playoffs.
Sadly, in the absolutely disorganized and chaotic minutes that followed, the only goal that came would go against the Union. After making a point blank save a couple minutes earlier, MacMath could do nothing as Lawrence Olum scored the game-winning, season-ending goal. The Union had been pushing all their players forward out of necessity, but that and the disorganization with which they did it led them terribly unprotected at the back and it was easy to see the goal coming before Olum slotted it in the net, ending the game.
Up next for the Union, an off-season of questions, including ones such as who will and should manage the team going forward. The new and wonderful staff at The Brotherly Game will discuss all of this and more as we take you through the off-season. Most importantly, through good times and bad, I'd like to thank each and every single one for reading and commenting. Frustrating as this team is, getting to share it with you makes it all the effort worthwhile.