After a spectacularly satisfying 3-1 victory over the horribly supported New York Red Bulls, the Union traveled to the city of Chicago and completely forgot what they did in the midweek by playing a John Hackworth style game. I am perhaps being a bit unfair here, as the Union looked like a side that was playing their third game in eight days - and by a bit of horrifying referee work the Union scrapped away with five points from three games.
Maybe it was karma rewarding the Union for their good play (and questionable decisions from previous referees), but regardless they walked away with only a few wounds in the face of two weeks to recuperate.
I posed the question to the staff here so let's see what they thought about whether or not the Union penalty at the end of the game was justified or not.
Let's see what they said.
Nicholas Youngstein - No, and no. Thievery.
Eugene Rupinski - That handball call was horrible. It should have never been called, however after all of those kinds of calls that have gone against the Union I'll take that all day.
Barry Evans - It was never a penalty or handball. I don't think the referee has a clue what handball is, as I think he got zero out of four instances correct.
DOOP Cast - The decision is clearly erroneous, however here is why I think he gave handball.
Even though the ball hits the arm which is held tight against his chest, the momentum as he turns his body makes his other arm fly out away from his body. I think the ref thought that the ball hit the arm that was extended away from his body and not the one that it actually hit.
John Rossi - It wasn't justified. His arm was in a perfectly natural position. It didn't even hit the part of his arm that was sticking out. That being said, Harrison Shipp should have been sent off early on for a handball. So I guess it evened out.
Frank Cobbina - It definitely wasn't a handball. Is it me, or has refereeing in MLS been poorer than usual since the league resumed after the World Cup break?
I wasn't particularly sure if the referee in the Philadelphia Union match against the Chicago Fire knew exactly what arms looked like. That, or he believed that Gonzalo Segares had arms growing out of his chest. Not once but twice Segares was called for a handball as his arms were at his side or chest. One of which happened to be in the penalty area giving the Union a penalty kick.
The penalty decision was far less than what the Union deserved, as they played like a team who had played twice in the same week already. After as many times as I've watched something like that happen to the Union, it finally went Philadelphia's way. It did feel a little dirty when the final whistle sounded and the Union stole a point, but considering the referee missed a complete red and penalty kick in the first half, as Harry Shipp threw an elbow at the ball as it headed for the back of the net.
As demonstrated in the Game Changers article, the ref points to the spot and then forgets entirely why he pointed to the spot in the first place. It was probably better he had a sudden bout with amnesia because the Union have the habit of pretending they're a man down when they're a man up. Either way, the Union have improved under Jim Curtin. Walking away from this week undefeated is a big deal in an ever tightening Eastern Conference race.
Two weeks off will have the Union well rested and ready to storm into the playoffs as they travel to their favorite place to win on the road, Sporting Park, to take on the majestic and perfect Sporting Kansas City led by their courageous owner who undoubtedly deserves a medal for his work in creating the penultimate MLS franchise.
Perhaps the greatest team in MLS will remember the last two times we visited Sporting Park and acquire some humility: