The Philadelphia Union lost to Orlando City SC 2-0 at Talen Energy Stadium, but are almost certainly going to the playoffs after getting some help from Toronto and New England.
Union Starting XI: Blake; Rosenberry, Tribbett, Marquez, Fabinho; Bedoya, Carroll, Herbers, Barnetta, Pontius; Sapong
Orlando City Starting XI: Bendik; Ambrose, Hines, Aja, Ramos; Higuita, Nocerino; Kaka, Perez Garcia; Rivas, Larin
With their second-ever playoff berth on the line and even a potential home game in the tournament, the Union had everything to play for. But the boys in blue came out flat against an Orlando City team that was sitting some of their regulars as the Lions’ head coach Jason Kries decided to give some of his lesser-used players a chance. Orlando City is already out of the playoffs, and Kries used this as a opportunity to give some young players a look, but the Union were not able to take advantage.
The first half was uneventful as neither team could muster a shot on goal. The U’s best chance came in the 30th minute when a Tranquillo Barnetta pass found an open Fabian Herbers in the box, but Herbers’ shot sailed far over the goal.
The Union looked a little more inspired in the second half, but the Lions took the lead in the 59th minute on what was officially an own goal by Keegan Rosenberry. Carlos Rivas took the ball from Fabinho and broke away down the field looking like he would have an open shot on goal. Rosenberry caught up, but Rivas’ shot deflected off Andre Blake and kept going. Rosenberry made a last-chance stretch, trying to kick the ball to the side of the cage, but ended up pushing it in to give Orlando City the lead.
The Union almost tied it the 67th minute when a Chris Pontius header forced Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik to make a great save right at the edge of the goal line.
Blake had some good saves in the last 10 minutes of the match to keep it close. Barnetta had a great opportunity to tie it in the 3rd minute of stoppage time when his header off an Alejandro Bedoya cross went wide. Orlando City finally put the game away for good on a Julio Baptista goal off a breakaway to give the Lions the 2-0 victory.
Despite the loss, the Union are all but assured they will be in the playoffs thanks to Montreal’s 2-2 tie with Toronto and Chicago’s 2-1 victory over New England. The only way the Union could miss out would be if they lost to the New York Red Bulls next week with New England winning and making up a 12-goal differential. Today’s loss cost them a chance at hosting a match in the knockout round of the playoffs. The best they can hope for is 5th place, which they’ll get if they combine a win next week with a New England loss; that would send them to RFK Stadium for a match against DC United. Otherwise they are traveling to Canada for a difficult match against Toronto FC. Even with a playoff spot virtually locked up, there is something to play for next week.
Union manager Jim Curtin admitted that “it feels funny” to punch a ticket for the playoffs on the heels of what might be the Union’s most uninspired performance of the season. When asked if there was a positive he could take away from this match, he simply said, “That it’s over.”
The Union are now riding a 6-game winless streak and they are going to have to step it up if they want to make any noise in the postseason. A strong performance at home next week would give the boys in blue some much-needed momentum going into the playoffs.