CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Philadelphia Union’s hopes for a second Supporters’ Shield were dealt a serious blow on Saturday with a dismal 4-0 loss on the gridiron-lined turf at Bank of America Stadium.
Daniel Rios gave the expansion team’s crowd of 43,860 plenty to cheer for, scoring four times to hand the Union their worst loss since a 4-0 defeat in Montreal on July 27, 2019. Rios had two goals in 24 matches entering the day.
But perhaps worse than the final score line — which upped the team’s goals against to 26 — the Union will be without one of their biggest weapons for a Decision Day battle at home against Toronto FC next Sunday after Kai Wagner was sent off with a second yellow for a handball in the box.
The Union remain tied on points with LAFC for the Supporters’ Shield but LAFC now holds the tiebreaker advantage with two more wins than the Union heading into their game Sunday afternoon in Portland.
Coming off the international break and playing their first competitive match since a scoreless draw on the turf in Atlanta two weeks ago, the Union never really settled into the match. It certainly didn’t help that the game was played with the gaudy white NFL lines on full display (soccer lines were yellow) but the Union didn’t look themselves and fell behind in the 24th minute when Charlotte capitalized on some uncharacteristic sloppy defensive play and Rios tapped in a Kamil Józwiak cross.
Unable to formulate much of a response — the only shot on goal for the game came on a long range shot from Daniel Gazdag that former Shipley School keeper Pablo Sisniega was able to easily save in the 34th minute — the Union found themselves with a rare deficit heading into the locker room.
The second half didn’t go much better as Charlotte doubled their lead inside 10 minutes with another link up from Józwiak to Rios after two Union defenders were unable to clear the ball from danger. A bad day became a nightmare in the 71st minute when Kai Wagner — on a yellow — slid with his arm up to block a shot and was whistled for a penalty and sent off. Rios buried the penalty under the arm of a diving Andre Blake to complete the hat trick.
Up a man, Charlotte was still on the hunt for more and found their fourth in stoppage time on another Rios tap-in from a ball sent in by substitute Orrin McKinze Gaines.
Union head coach Jim Curtin brought in Cory Burke and Paxten Aaronson off the bench with a half hour to go and Quinn Sullivan at the 75th minute mark before Jack Elliott went down with an injury and was replaced by Matt Real but in the end the Union weren’t able to mount much of comeback down to 10 men and will look to put an exclamation point on the season next Sunday afternoon and snatch some momentum back heading into the postseason.