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Tuesday Morning Game Changers hobbles past the finish line

Every week we "Monday (Tuesday) morning manage" the previous Philadelphia Union games, talking about the major points in the game that changed momentum, led to goals and won or lost the points for the Union. This week, we analyze the last game of the season, at home to Orlando City.

The inevitable happened and Chris Penso used his red card after so many yellows.
The inevitable happened and Chris Penso used his red card after so many yellows.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Well that's it. The 2015 Philadelphia Union season is over, and it ended with a 1-0 win at home to Orlando City, who had a very very slim shot at making the playoffs. It wasn't to be for the new arrivals to MLS, as Sebastien Le Toux did what he does best: score from the penalty spot. It was a result that cost Philadelphia the second pick in the draft (unless they get Colorado's pick by completing the trade of Zac MacMath). However, it also allowed them to finish level with New York City FC. So - what were all of the game changing moments from the last game of the season for the Union?

1. No Fernando Aristeguieta or... Cristian Maidana?

There are a few different ways to go into the last game of the season when you are out of the playoffs. You can either have a look at the fringe players who may or may not be around in 2015, but give them one last chance to impress. You can also go with your first choice XI for the next year (minus off-season signings of course).

Jim Curtin chose the latter as it was a full strength team he picked, minus the injured Maurice Edu. The omission of Fernando Aristeguieta is no surprise. Perhaps the biggest shock was the omission of Cristian Maidana, who had the chance to take the lead league in assists.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising however, as even in pre-season Curtin suggested that Maidana may lose his starting job to Zach Pfeffer. When the season's first lineup was announced, the Argentine playmaker was left on the bench. The odds are that it is because of a perceived lack of defensive effort by Maidana that this occurred. This was reinforced with Curtin making sure to mention the work rate and defensive effort that Barnetta put in at the central attacking midfielder position. Curtin had also said that Barnetta was going to play centrally when first signed, and it doesn't take a genius to realise that Maidana on the wing isn't going to work in a Jim Curtin team.

That work was impressive from Barnetta, and you have to say that while Maidana brings a lot of quality, the team seemed more streamlined in what they were trying to accomplish without him. It may well be that Barnetta and Maidana can not play in the same team, so the odds of Maidana's option being picked up may have suddenly went up.

2. Shots crashing off the crossbar

A turning point in the Philadelphia Union season may have been CJ Sapong recovering from his injury and his stint in the MLS substance abuse program. From then, the young striker has been in the goals, with a goal every 200 minutes to be the Union's top scorer. He was unlucky not to improve on that record in the 19th minute as a quick throw-in by Sebastien Le Toux found Sapong running in behind Brek Shea, and he unleashed a cracking shot against the bar. Unfortunately for Philadelphia it went far enough away from any Union player and the chance was gone.

3. A card-happy referee and players looking to stop play at every opportunity

In reality there were very little opportunities for either team to get a goal. What did occur throughout the game was a lot of yellow cards being shown, and finally a red card when too many players had already been booked. The game was tightly called throughout, and nothing referee Chris Penso did slowed down the fouls. Penso often seemed to listen to the players' requests to hand out yellow cards, which should never happen. Cards should be given to players who deserve them, not because you had already given yellow cards to the other team or because a player requests it.

As for the red card, Cristian Higuita was shown two yellows for individually very soft fouls. However, when you consider that he gave away six fouls during the game then it could always be argued that he deserved to be sent off for persistent fouling. It was not a surprise for Orlando to be a team that fouls a lot however, as they were fourth in MLS in fouls committed throughout the season.

4. Finally some penalty luck

It's been a long hard season for the Union, and some may say that if they had gotten lucky throughout the season then the playoffs may have been a possibility. There were many wrong, soft, and stupid penalties given up by Philadelphia, and very few in their favour. That changed on Sunday evening as they were on the correct end of a silly decision from Orlando City's Cristian Higuita, who really had an awful day at the office.

The ball had gone out to Eric Ayuk, who had seen Sebastien Le Toux making a typical lung-bursting run into the box. Ayuk tried to pick out the Frenchman, but let's be honest, the ball was going 20 yards over his head, and was going to likely run out of play and out of danger. However, Higuita for some reason thought that he had to bring down Le Toux, and it was an easy decision for Penso to blow the whistle. Of course, once the penalty was given, there was never any doubt that Le Toux would have scored, and he made it 13 goals out of 13 attempts from 12 yards out.

5. The best game changer ever

It's the end of the season, and just like the 2016 Philadelphia Union will have many changes, hopefully for the better, so will the game changers articles. Due to not having anywhere near enough time to do this weekly, after two years of writing them someone else is going to be at the game changer helm. Don't worry, if they'll have me I'll stick around and there may be some "guest appearances" come 2016 on the Brotherly Game, but they will be rare. I'll leave you with one of my favourite goodbyes in film (with a soccer link too).