On Decision Day in MLS, all the teams playing at the same time, the Philadelphia Union (16-10-7, 55 Pts, 3rd Place Eastern Conference) hosted NYCFC (17-6-10, 61 Pts, 1st Place). The Union still had a chance to take 2nd place with a win and an Atlanta United FC (17-12-4, 55 Pts, 2nd Place) loss or a draw, or a draw and and ATL loss.
The Union could not recover from two first half goals, and fell to NYCFC 2-1, as the sellout crowd of 18,525, the 8th of the season, started to look forward to the playoffs in two weeks.
NYCFC Starting XI: 4,2,3,1
GK Sean Johnson; Ds Alexander Callens, Maxine Chanot, Anton Tinnerholm, Ben Sweat; MFs Ebenezer Ofori, Alexander Ring (C), Maximiliano Moralez; Fs Ronald Matarrita, Valentin Castellanos, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi
Union Starting XI: 4,2,3,1
GK Andre Blake; Ds Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Raymon Gaddis; MFs Haris Medunjanin (C), , Brenden Aaronson, Jamiro Monteiro, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault; F Andrew Wooten
NYCFC struck first on a goal by Matarrita, who was subbed in right before the match. Sweat and Castellanos had the assists, as the U fell asleep on the counter after they felt there was a handball on the other end. 7′
That was his first of the season.
Another weak defensive effort as NYCFC’s Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (5), completely uncovered, just chips it and it deflected off of Monteiro’s head ,and over Blake for the eventual game winning goal 22′. It all started with a turnover at midfield giving NYC numbers, and the U never recovered. 2-0 Boys In Lt. Blue.
As Head Coach Jim Curtin said after the match, “Not a lot went right for us in the first 30 minutes.” The stats show just how sorry a first 45’+ this was as the U were out-shot 8-3, 2-1 on target, and out-possessed 62.7-37.3.
The Union looked a bit better in the second half, but still missing Alejandro Bedoya and Kacper Przybylko, they just could not maintain good enough possession in the midfield, or finish when it counted. They would up only down two shots, 16-14, and ahead 5-3 on target. They also closed the TOP to 54.3 – 45.7.
They did make it interesting with all that pressure, as they were able to force a handball in the 86′. On the same play a couple of players were also knocked down in the box.
Fabian (7) easily knocked it home for the eventual 2-1 final.
Ring 90′ +5′
Jesus Medina for Tajouri-Shradi 32′ Injury.
James Sands for Matarrita 82′
Sebastian Ibeagha for Tinnerholm 89′
Marco Fabián for Ilsonho 60′
Anthony Fontana for Picault 75′
Matt Real for Aaronson 80′
“A third place finish in this conference is something to be proud of, something to build on” said Curtin, trying to put as positive a spin as possible on a finishing record of 1-3-1 in the last five matches. Yes the standings below show the best season ever for the franchise in Ws and points, but a few more wins down the stretch could easily have meant a top, or second place seeding, making the playoffs that much easier.
Hopefully the two weeks off will help with whatever the foot injury to Pryz turns out to be, as well as getting Bedoya back in playing shape. They will need everybody to be at their best in the pressure that is a knock-out play-offs.
At this time all we know is that they will host the New York Red Bulls on the 19th or 20th. Talen Energy Stadium should be rocking with both a packed home crowd, as well as a good contingent from up I-95.