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Conor Casey Commands Curtailed Comeback: Philadelphia Union 3-3 Vancouver Whitecaps

The Union fell behind 2-0 but this time mounted a furious rally only to see it all fall to pieces on an 80th minute penalty.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

After sending out another different starting XI, John Hackworth's Philadelphia Union found themselves in a similar situation. Poor play, missed opportunities, and opposition goals all led everyone to believe the Union would enter the World Cup break with another feckless loss. Down 2-0 at half time, Hackworth appeared to be waving the white flag on the game and possibly his managerial tenure by bringing on Michael Lahoud at the start of the second half. But thanks to a furious second half rally that saw three Union goals in eight minutes, the Union took the lead only to see it disappear after a Vancouver penalty, all culminating in a thrilling 3-3 draw Saturday evening at PPL Park.

In a surprise move to start the game, Hackworth switched his starting formation from the usual 4-3-3 we have seen for most of the year to a 4-2-3-1 with Fabinho, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams, and Ray Gaddis in the back, Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu in the double pivot, Zach Pfeffer, Cristian Maidana, and Danny Cruz as the band of attacking midfielders, and Conor Casey up top as the lone striker.

The first goal came in the 18th minute and it came on a picture perfect counterattack from Vancouver that culminated with a one-touch cross from Nigel Reo-Coker to Erik Hurtado whose header got past a diving Zac MacMath. Sometimes one has to tip their hat to the opposition and say well done, and that goal was one of those occasions.

The Union had many chances to equalize, but each time the Union either missed the net, could not register a shot, or were denied by Whitecaps keeper David Ousted. And worse yet for the Union, Vancouver's entertaining brand of attacking soccer harmed the Union once again in the 41st minute, when another counterattack led to another goal and put the Union in a 2-0 hole, this time it was Nicolas Mezquida finishing the play off a cross from Hurtado.

It looked lost heading into the break, and seemed even more lost when John Hackworth subbed out Pfeffer for Michael Lahoud, but the Union would launch a furious second half rally that electrified PPL Park in a manner in which it had never before been electrified this season. The Union got their first goal from a Fabinho through ball leading to a Maidana cross and yet another diving header from Casey in the 63rd minute. There's something......majestic is not the word......entertaining?....about a guy Casey's size diving for balls like he does, and this header had the added benefit of good fortune as it found its way into the net only after striking woodwork.

Sebastien Le Toux shortly thereafter came into the game, and shortly thereafter that, he evened the ledger. Running in on goal, Le Toux caught onto a perfectly placed Maidana chip on the break. Union fans had reason to celebrate. The fun was not over yet, though. Just a couple minutes after that the Union took what ten minutes ago would have been seen as an improbable lead. Receiving the ball from outside the box, Casey struck a perfect low line shot that found its way past Ousted and into the corner of the net, giving the Union a 3-2 lead and sending PPL Park into a frenzy of cheers.

But 10 minutes later all those cheers would become boos. Making a play on the ball in the box, the referee saw MacMath take down David Mattocks in the box and whistled penalty for Vancouver. MacMath protested greatly, but he had missed the ball and gotten only Mattocks, warranting the call. Despite his 3/3 record on penalty saves this season and guessing right again this time, Pedro Morales snuck the ball past the Union keeper to even the score at three apiece.

The Union would have more chances on goal, but each time Ousted was up to the task of parrying the ball away from danger, and despite the furious second half rally, the Union were forced to settle for a 3-3 draw and two more dropped points at PPL Park this season. While certainly one of the most entertaining Union games of the season, the Union would have really enjoyed heading into the World Cup break with a two-game win streak, especially with one of those wins being against a very good Vancouver Whitecaps team.

But instead, two more dropped points and another draw, and now questions will be asked of John Hackworth and the Union Front Office as we transition into the three-week long World Cup break. If the Union were to fire Hackworth mid-season, as far as timing and logistics are concerned, now would be the most logical time to do it given the break. Regardless of what happens though, for a team once believed to be a playoff contender, the Union will have to face tough questions many thought three months ago they would not be forced to answer.