Nothing went right for the boys in blue in New York City today, and they only have a couple days to fix it all.
The Union could have been the third seed with a home knockout game in Fortress Talen with a simple win today.
They could have been the fourth seed if they had drawn NYCFC.
They could have been the fifth seed if only Columbus hadn’t won.
None of these things happened, and the Union are officially the sixth and last seed in the East for the playoffs. On top of that, by virtue of their 3-1 loss against NYCFC in New York, they’ll face NYCFC in New York in a couple days for a knockout game in the playoffs. NYC (who happens to have secured the third seed by gaining a point today) was nearly unbeatable at home this year, and they showed why again today. I kept a running diary of the match, and it went a little like this…
Union first XI: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault, Borek Dockal, C.J. Sapong; Cory Burke
NYCFC first XI: Sean Johnson; Anton Tinnerholm, Max Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat; Alexander Ring, Yangel Herrera; Jesus Medina, Maxi Moralez, Ronald Mataritta; David Villa
Pregame: David Villa terrifies me. He’s one of those guys who always has a bit of magic in his back pocket for when he needs it. As the players walk out, this more than anything is what occupies my mind.
1′: Away we go!
2′: This pitch is so, so tiny. Like CONCACAF island-nation, FIFA-minimum tiny.
4′: Union keeper Andre Blake is forced into a save with Villa threatening. It happened quickly too, in a blink.
6′: Another dangerous cross by NYCFC cleared out. It’s all City early.
8′: Rosenberry does well to shut Villa down just outside the box. He gives up a corner, which is pounded home by Max Chanot’s noggin. 1-0 NYCFC.
10′: 2-0 NYCFC. Auston Trusty own goal. Trusty gets on the end of an NYC pass going across the box and accidentally deflects it past Blake. This is not the start for which the U were hoping.
13′: Blake with a save on Ronald Mataritta. The back line is completely lost. Shades of the Open Cup final.
14′: Dockal to Burke and the Union pull one back! Borek plays Cory into the box and Burke finishes with a rocket past Sean Johnson. It’s Burke’s tenth of the year, and gives Dockal the assist lead for the MLS season. Also: as he’s been doing all season, Alejandro Bedoya made an unselfish run to Burke’s left that pulled defenders with him and opened up space for Cory.
16′: Trusty booked for a collision at midfield.
20′: Trusty wins a solo battle with Villa, doing well to shut him down in the box.
24′: Fafa Picault in alone on Johnson to Johnson’s right, and he… opts to pass aimlessly across the box instead of lashing a shot. Poor decision making there.
27′: Ben Sweat puts a pretty pass right on David Villa’s head, but the resulting header is right at Blake.
29′: A Union corner results in a Burke header, but it’s high. The Union are starting to grow into the match.
34′: After a mad scramble in the box including multiple Blake saves, Villa is in the right place at the right time and puts a loose ball home. 3-1 NYCFC.
40′: Oh Cory. Burke gets a yellow for a late challenge, then jaws at the ref. Borek Dockal comes over to calm him down and Burke brushes him off and half throws an elbow at him. Not good.
Halftime: A couple Union chances go wanting, and they go into the room down a couple.
46′: Cory Burke is gone, subbed out for Ilsinho at the half. C.J. Sapong moves up top. The camera zooms in on Burke, and he’s very emotional on the bench, tears coming down his face. We learn he’s not injured, it’s a coach’s decision.
48′: Maxi Moralez walks through four Union defenders to force a save by Blake. This is hard to watch.
53′: Off a Union corner, Auston Trusty gets a head on a ball that Sean Johnson barely tips over the bar. It would have been great to see him redeem himself there for earlier.
55′: It feels like it’s been one way traffic for NYCFC so far this half.
59′: And now some intrigue: Johnson comes out to challenge Sapong for a ball in the box and clatters into Sapong without getting the ball. It’s a penalty, but no card was awarded. Fafa Picault will take it.
60′: Picault puts a low, hard shot to the left lower corner but Johnson guesses right and gets a hand to it and keeps it out. Huge moment there, maybe game making.
62′: HANDBAGS AT TWENTY PACES IN NEW YORK. The two teams come together after a foul, pushing and shoving with some “why I oughtas” thrown in. No cards.
64′: We learn Columbus has taken a lead on Minnesota, 1-0. With D.C. and Chicago in a scoreless tie, that would push the Union from fourth to sixth if all results hold.
68′: Moralez off, Eloi Amagat on for City. Union defender Keegan Rosenberry off, Fabinho on and slides up top as a second striker, along with Sapong. Union shift to a 3-5-2.
73′: The Union are in the box, they’re getting passes into the box, they’re just not getting a friendly bounce. Several chances have not gone their way.
75′: Ilsinho comes down the right and hits a hard shot on goal, but Johnson is equal to the task with a kick save.
76′: Sapong out, Jay Simpson in.
82′: A Haris Medunjanin free kick finds no one in the box and goes out untouched.
84′: Trusty clears a City corner out as Alexander Callens undercuts him. Trusty lands awkwardly and is slow to get up. Medina out, Tajouri-Shradi in.
87′: Chanot off, Ofori on. Both teams are out of subs.
90′: Three minutes of stoppage. They could play twenty and it wouldn’t matter.
90’+1: D.C. officially draws Chicago, goes ahead of the Union with 51 points.
90’+3: That’s it (thank goodness). It’s very likely the U will be back in this building in a couple days for a knockout playoff match, so they better figure out their problems fast.
Postgame: The Union have one of the best teams in terms of passing, offensive midfielders, and one of the worst midfields in terms of getting the ball back. We may very well see Derrick Jones in the place of Haris Medunjanin (whose passing talents Kevin Kinkead rightly pointed out are largely negated by the small pitch in New York). The Columbus score comes back 3-2 with a Crew win, which means NYCFC will be the third seed, D.C. United will be the four, with the Crew jumping past the Union for the fifth seed.
At the risk of putting a hex on everything, another match against this team can’t possibly go worse than this.