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Union fall in season finale to NYCFC, will travel for playoffs

The blue and gold were never able to recover from a dismal first half in a 3-1 to the Pigeons in the Bronx

Fafa PIcault attempts a penalty kick in the second half of a game at Yankee Stadium on October 28, 2018
Morgan Tencza

There will be no playoff game in Chester this week after the Philadelphia Union fell 3-1 to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

Needing a win to clinch third place and a home playoff game, the blue and gold fell behind 2-0 in the first 10 minutes on a Maxime Chanot goal and an own goal from Auston Trusty.

Disorganized and disoriented after Trusty’s own goal on an attempted clearance from a cross into the box from former Reading United defender Ben Sweat, Cory Burke was able to get the U back into the game when Borek Dockal found the Jamaica international all alone behind the defense in the 14th minute. The goal tied Burke with Fafa Picault for the team lead with 10 on the season, his first in MLS.

The Pigeons restored their two-goal lead in the 34th minute on another near own goal from Trusty, who slid in to try to clear a ball out of danger but ended up hitting it off of Ray Gaddis, whose poor clearance eventually ended up at the foot of David Villa for a finish inside the box.

Head coach Jim Curtin went to his bench at halftime, switching Burke — who was on a yellow — for Ilsinho and putting CJ Sapong up top. The move almost paid off for Curtin when Sapong was taken down by a silly foul by NYC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who recovered from what could have potentially been a red card offense to make a diving save on Picault’s penalty attempt.

Johnson ended up making three of his four saves in the second half to deny the Union’s comeback attempt. In the opposite goal, Blake registered five saves on the day, including one on the initial shot from Villa off Gaddis’ turnover that he followed up for his goal.

Curtin used his other two subs to bring in Fabinho for Keegan Rosenberry and swap him with Gaddis at outside back and brought in Jay Simpson for Sapong. Neither move brought the Union back in a game they’ll have a chance to avenge in the knockout round of the playoffs on Wednesday in the Bronx.

Though the game was touted by some as the Union’s biggest game of the season, traveling back to the Bronx for a rematch in the knockout round of the playoffs may still end up being a preferred scenario to playing D.C. United on the road. Another dismal performance at Yankee Stadium would make fans quickly forget that coming into today’s game the Union had a chance to claim third place in the Eastern Conference and host a playoff game for the second time in franchise history.

They certainly looked a long way from being that team on Sunday. Rather than riding high into the postseason today’s loss means the Union will end up finishing only four points clear of seventh place Montreal Impact after dropping their final two games to their New York rivals.