Minutes away from extending their win streak to five games in league play, a stoppage time goal from Orlando City sent the Philadelphia Union into a two-week international break with a frustrating 2-2 draw Saturday night.
Orlando City opened the scoring in the 9th minute when Dom Dwyer headed home a Yoshimar Yotún free kick for his 12th of the season. The goal was the first conceded by the Union defense in nearly 280 minutes and the marked the first time the blue and gold have trailed in a match since the first week of August.
The Lions came ever so close to doubling their lead 15 minutes later when Yotún beat Keegan Rosenberry off the dribble down the left flank and drove a ball through the box that found Cristian Higuita for an tight angled shot that had beat Andre Blake but clanged off the far post and back into the arms of the Jamaica international.
Instead of being down 2-0, Cory Burke leveled the score for the visitors in the 32nd minute off a pinpoint cross from Bořek Dočkal.
Dočkal’s assist tied him with Kaku for the league lead with 14, but the Czech Republic international would not make it through to halftime, picking up an ankle injury that would force head coach Jim Curtin to go to his bench and insert Derrick Jones into the midfield with Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin.
The impact of that injury — and another in the second half when Curtin had to sub off the substitute Ilsinho — can’t be downplayed considering how valuable Dočkal has been to the Union during a spectacular run of form that’s put them firmly in the playoff conversation after looking for stretches like they were in the midst of another lost season.
“Obviously to lose two of your key attacking players to injury, which made it tough to sub, which was difficult,” Curtin said after the match. “But overall again, taking the positive point on the road is always good in this league.”
Even without their talisman, the Union would find a lead with two minutes left in regulation on an incredible individual effort from Fafa Picault, who danced through the defense outside the top of the box and fired off his lucky seventh shot of the night that took a deflection off an Orlando City player and went in.
Two points would slip out of the Union’s grasp just three minutes later when left back Raymon Gaddis would misplay a ball in the box that Josué Colman was able to win and quickly get to Scott Sutter for a game-tying strike in the first of four minutes of stoppage time.
Frustrating as the ending was, the Union head into a two-week international break unbeaten in five, three points behind fourth place Columbus Crew and 10 points clear of seventh place New England Revolution with seven league games left.
“You know overall, obviously we wanted to push for all nine points in the week,” Curtin said after the match. “Came up a little bit short on the last minute but overall, keep this in perspective. Obviously 40 points on September 1st is a good position to make the playoffs.”
They return to action September 15th at home against Montreal Impact, which are four points behind the Union in the sixth and final playoff spot after a 3-0 win over first place New York Red Bulls on Saturday.