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Fafa’s late goal gives Union 1-0 win in Seattle on record-breaking night

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The Union appeared to be headed to a frustrating scoreless draw when Fafa picked off a pass and nutmegged Stefan Frei

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

If you went to bed early last night and woke up to see that the Philadelphia Union won 1-0, you have no idea what you missed.

The quick and synopsis: the Union were dreadful in the first half, extremely lucky to go into the break scoreless and after a much improved start to the second half had a Cory Burke goal taken away by video review in the 65th minute for offsides and went down to 10 men when Jack Elliott was shown a second yellow as time was running down.

It had all the makings of a familiarly frustrating draw, but halfway through the six minutes of added time the improbably happened.

Jay Simpson, making his first appearance since April 13th, applied the pressure and Fafa Picault used a burst of speed to pick off Stefan Frei’s pass and meg the 2016 MLS Cup MVP for the game-winning goal in the third of six minutes of added time.

“Any three points on the road is massive, especially coming to the West Coast,” Simpson said after the match. “When you go down a man I think we would have been happy to get out of their with a point but delighted to get all three.”

The goal was Picault’s eighth of the season, a team record fourth straight on the road — his 88th minute goal in Orlando was later canceled out by a Lions equalizer in stoppage time on September 1st — and ended up overshadowing what would have been the game’s main talking point had things ended up a scoreless draw: Cory Burke’s VAR-overturned goal in the 65th minute.

“Obviously, everyone has the emotions of what you think is scoring a goal and start to think about protecting the lead,” head coach Jim Curtin said of the overturned goal. “At the end of the day you want them to get these calls right. Sometimes you’re on the good end, sometimes you’re on the bad end. Tonight it went against us but I think our guys showed a lot of strength and character in the commitment that they showed even going down a man and getting a goal.”

The result at CenturyLink Field, where the Union had only won once before in five tries, wasn’t the only positive development coming out of the Pacific Northwest early this morning. The Columbus Crew’s 3-2 loss in Portland moved the Union within a point of fourth place and four points clear of sixth place Montreal Impact.

It was also a record-setting night as Andre Blake broke the club’s all-time saves record on a fine fingertip save in the first half that denied one of several chances the Sounders had to take the lead against a sloppy blue and gold in the first half.

As a team, the Union broke single-season records for wins with their 13th and road victories with their sixth, all while snapping Seattle’s nine-game winning streak.

The bad news for the Union is that Elliott will miss Sunday’s game against Sporting Kansas City and Ray Gaddis will be questionable after an injury forced him to give way to Fabinho at the hour mark.

Star midfielder Bořek Dočkal didn’t make the trip to Seattle with head coach Jim Curtin opting to leave him off the long flight and not test his tender left ankle on the Seattle turf. Derrick Jones took his place in the starting XI as the only change from Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Montreal.

“We talked a lot about the character of our team is going to be shown in how we respond after a difficult and disappointing performance against Montreal,” Curtin said after the match. “I thought that the players deserve a lot of credit for stepping up. It looked more like us in terms of the competitiveness and team defending and also breaking pretty quick on the counter and giving a really good Seattle team some problems.”

The Union return home to face Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. before traveling to Houston for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final next Wednesday.