Heading into added time, it felt like the same old tired story playing out for the Philadelphia Union.
A questionable penalty given to NYCFC in the 87th minute returned that sinking feeling to the pits of Union fans’ stomachs. Taty Castellanos buried his opportunity, and now once again the Union were going to draw in a game that they were ahead in. It would be yet another wasted chance at a statement game.
Then something magical happened.
In the 96th-minute midfielder Jose Martinez launched a rocket from outside of the box. Redirecting off of striker Cory Burke’s hip, the deflection completely threw off New York City goalkeeper Sean Johnson and found itself in the back of the net. This time the Union would not disappoint, and their 90 minutes of hard work finally paid off in a massive three points.
“Obviously, you know the handball, the first one on Kai, you understand why it’s called, but it kind of comes from nothing and that really hurt. It kind of sucked the life out of us and the stadium,” stated coach Jim Curtin after the match. “But it shows the character of the team that they stayed with it. They fought till the end, they made the fans proud. Got the goal to what we thought to win the game and then almost had another penalty call at the end. So the full run of emotions for everybody I think in the stadium, a really entertaining game that had a playoff feel.”
Take two on the game-winning goal celebration pic.twitter.com/Hs7tMqSMqy— Brotherly Game (@BrotherlyGame) June 27, 2022
A playoff feel is an exact way to describe this contest.
All parties involved knew just how important the game was with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line, but it meant even more for a Union squad that has massively struggled to earn wins in recent months.
“While we don’t like the ties we still know that if we try again it has that pressure on the next game even more, so big to get three points for us,” Curtin said on the pressure to earn results after the long streak of ties.
Despite all of the panic and despair the past month and a half has brought for Union fans, the club is now back at the top of the Eastern Conference with a two-point advantage. Even more of a morale boost is their regular season sweep of New York City FC.
Philadelphia will travel to Chicago on Wednesday in the two’s first encounter this season.