Coming off an improbable win at Sporting Kansas City less than 72 hours ago, the Union returned home to PPL Park to take on the playoff contending New England Revolution. Things went considerably less well, to say the least. The final score was 5-3, but make no mistake about it, this was nobody's idea of a 2-goal game. The Union were blown out and only got the game within two thanks to two garbage time goals after the game's doubt had long since evaporated.
I suppose some may have taken some certain masochistic entertainment out of this game. Highlights did exist (ohai, Noggy) and after all, it had been close at the half. New England Revolution took a 2-0 first half lead with goals from A.J. Soares and Diego Fagundez despite the Union controlling possession, but following a Sheanon Williams throw-in Vincent Nogueira conjured up a goal of the year candidate. Nogueira had ripped a volley from outside the 18-yard box past helplessly diving former Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton. The goal was legitimately spectacular, and the Union had hope entering the second half that they could at the very least salvage a point against New England.
But hope can be a curse, and it was ever cruel to the Union tonight. One minute after Zac MacMath made a dramatic diving stop on Fagundez, Lee Nguyen danced his way around Ray Gaddis and Austin Berry in the 49th minute before slotting the ball through Berry's legs and off the foot of MacMath on its way into the net. The score was 3-1 Revolution, and the visitors would never look back.
New England went on to further bury their hosts by scoring two more goals. First Chris Tierney, then Patrick Mullins. 5-1 was the scoreline, only later salvaged by two Union goals in garbage time. Sheanon Williams and a Sebastien Le Toux penalty sandwiched between a Cristian Maidana red card capped off the evening and a 5-3 New England victory.
For the Union, it was a complete disaster following an uplifting win at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night. The Union have been an at best mediocre team for the past couple of months and worse yet for them a series of many events have not gone their way. Fixture congestion has been awful to them. Tonight the Union played their 13th game of the season, while their opponents were only playing their 11th. Worse yet for the Union, only New York Red Bulls had played as many as 12 games at this point in the season. All the other teams fall in line with New England or have even played fewer games. The Union have started the season as the exception, not the norm.
The fatigue that comes along with fixture congestion did them no favors, and worseyet while fixture congestion has been at its highest the Union's roster has been at its most depleted. Brian Carroll is carrying a groin injury, Fabinho is suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Corben Bone is suspended due to a straight red card, and Maurice Edu is training with Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. Men's National Team. Having three regular rotation players and one depth player unavailable is proving costly to the Union at a time when they need depth and the ability to rotate players without putting too many people out of position or wearing out too many people. Unfortunately the Union may be running out of midfielders, as evidenced by 19-year old Zach Pfeffer appearing on the bench and later as a sub in the match. And with Maidana's red card tonight, things may get even worse before they begin to get better.
Coupled a middling squad, a middling manager, and increasing fan dissatisfaction toward said squad and manager, the disaster that was tonight's game should not come as that much of a surprise in hindsight. And as the Union's 2014 nose dive continued tonight after Wednesday's brief respite, there is no comfort in knowing rock bottom may not yet have been reached.