The Philadelphia Union missed a golden chance to secure the Supporters’ Shield with a strong road performance against the Columbus Crew Sunday afternoon at MAPFRE Stadium, but eight saves from Columbus keeper Eloy Room and two mistakes on the defensive end means the Union will have to wait one more week to claim its first ever trophy.
“We created a lot of chances and a lot of opportunities against a very good Columbus team,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the game. “To get twenty-two shots, nine of them on goal is certainly enough chances on the road, but their goalkeeper made a bunch of key saves.”
The Union finished with 9 shots on target, but Room was the star of the game on a day in which the Union were without Andre Blake, who will undergo surgery on his fractured hand and could return by the start of the playoffs. Joe Bendik started his first game of the season in Blake’s absence, and after a shaky introduction against Chicago Wednesday night, he made one save on three shots on goal.
“Joe did his job,” Curtin said. “I thought he kicked the ball well. I thought he organized the back line well. We didn’t give up a ton of chances.”
Bendik could not be entirely at fault on Artur’s opener in the 37th minute. Artur was given plenty of space just outside the box with Kai Wagner pressing too late, and the Brazilian midfielder found the bottom corner away from Bendik’s reach. The Union gave up a similar goal to Columbus in their previous meeting, a 1-0 Columbus win. Krisztián Németh’s late winner may have been more on the former Columbus keeper as he failed to reach Luis Diaz’s bending cross, which Németh tucked home from inside the six to steal the three points.
On the winner, Curtin said, “We lost a bad ball up the field after being pretty much in control of the game at one-one, missed five or six chances to make it two-one.”
Wagner’s giveaway led to a counter in which Németh snuck behind Jakob Glesnes on the far post. “A lot of people could have done better,” Curtin said. “We’re not going to point fingers.”
Bendik said of the second goal, “I was right there, just couldn’t get enough to push it out of his reach.” Bendik made his 179th MLS appearance and his first since last July when he played for Columbus before being traded to the Union. When asked about the mental effects of the loss ahead of next week’s regular season finale, he said, “I think this season is full of these ups and downs.”
Bendik pointed out the team’s positive responses following the first loss to Columbus and the loss to Toronto. “Those failures we haven’t let define this team, and I don’t think it’s going to be any different going forward.”
The Union outplayed Columbus for a majority of the game and had more chances to score, even with the trio of Lucas Zelarayán, Gyasi Zardes, and Darlington Nagbe playing together for the first time since the win over the Union. Olivier Mbaizo had a first half chance that Room saved with his fingertips, and Kacper Przybylko hit the post minutes into the second half.
Following Jamiro Monteiro’s 57th minute penalty kick to equalize at 1-1 after Jonathan Mensah fouled Sergio Santos, the Union had a flurry of chances stopped by Room, some of which cam from dangerous near post runs with deflected headers across the goal. But Room denied Przybylko with a header late and Jack Elliott in injury time to hold on.
“The guys were frustrated for sure,” Curtin said. “I thought we played well enough to get a result. I think if we play like that we’ll beat most teams in this league and throughout the playoffs, so I’m still happy with the performance and the way the guys worked.”
Jamiro Monteiro echoed his coach’s assessment of the Union’s performance. “We were the better team, had more chances than them.” Monteiro scored his third goal of the season and was a decisive player in midfield after missing the game against Chicago due to a yellow card suspension. “We deserved at least a point, but we gave it away.”
The Union return home to Subaru Park on November 8 where they will face the New England Revolution for the fifth time this season. The Union are 3-0-1 against New England and won the last game 2-1 on a sloppy night at home two weeks ago. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.