What a difference three days can make for a team.
Sunday night the Union was on top of the world. Finally, after drawing so many matches and blowing so many leads, they were rewarded for their hard work. The goal they had been searching for finally came in the 96th minute to take first place over rival NYCFC. Everything was right, they finally figured it out.
Then Wednesday night happened… Chicago pretty much controlled the game from the outset, and Union faithful hoped that the team just got out of the blocks slow and would take over eventually. They didn’t. Chicago should have gone into the second half with a lead.
Philadelphia showed plenty of life early in the second half. A fantastic cross from Kai Wagner found an open Cory Burke in the center of the box for what indeed should have been a goal. Instead, we all saw why Chicago’s 18-year-old prodigy in net Gabriel Slonina has been linked with Real Madrid this summer. His fantastic save of the header was only topped by his awareness to corral the ball off the line.
That was the Union’s chance. Chicago went back on the attack and finally took the lead in the 68th minute. Christopher Mueller pulled off one of the best moves you will see all month to beat Kai Wagner. His cross would bounce around to Federico Navarro on the edge of the box who would put the hosts up 1-0. Despite shouts for a penalty in the 96th minute the Union was unable to break even, the 1-0 loss just their second of the season.
“It’s a good reminder that if we don’t bring our max intensity from all 11 guys, in this league you get beat regardless of where you are in the table.” head coach Jim Curtin commented after the loss.
Curtin all year has talked about how there are no givens in the MLS, no easy three points to be had. Any team can beat anybody, and it just wasn’t the Union’s day at all. They started slow out of the gates and just weren’t able to catch up.
Despite that one Burke attempt, it felt a lot like the Inter Miami draw where there was just no creativity in the build-up. Add in the second yellow card shown to Jose Martinez in the 72nd minute, and everything that could’ve gone wrong did. It felt like a team on a hangover from a big victory.
“All of us need to be better,” Curtin said. “And again, the margins in this league are tight. The margins for the Philadelphia Union are extremely tight, so if we have a couple of guys not put in the hard work, that’s what it looks like.”
The Union benefited from Cincinnati taking a point from New York City tonight in an eight-goal thriller, though fans will wish they held on to the 3-0 lead and not let up three goals in stoppage time. Philadelphia is still in first place by a point but will need to fix it up for their Sunday clash in Columbus.