It was a cruel, crushing blow.
The Philadelphia Union, at home, thought they were about to walk off with a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. But all that changed when, one minute into second half stoppage time, Quakes midfielder Arturo Alvarez orchestrated a quick-fire counterattack to score the winner.
The last-minute 2-1 loss gave the Union their first home defeat of the season and left them devastated, sending them to the locker room a down and dejected bunch. At that moment, knowing that they’d be welcoming 42-time Scottish League champions Celtic to town less than a week later couldn’t have felt that great to the team.
Luckily, they didn’t get much time to think about the loss and knew that team manager Peter Nowak would turn their minds onto Wednesday’s match against the Hoops, which is exactly where they should be.
Right now, more games are just exactly what Philadelphia need to establish themselves within the league, and within themselves, too.
Contrary to what the resounding 3-1 victory over Seattle in June would lead to believe, the team isn’t totally on the same page yet and still has plenty of work to do to get itself in tip-top shape.
Don’t get me wrong, the Union have shown massive strides this season. Looking back to their season opener, which Philadelphia lost to the very same Seattle team they whipped last month, Nowak’s players have come together quite nicely. At least as well as any expansion team can be expected to.
Now, getting the chance to play a squad the caliber of Celtic in front of their fans, with the pressure off, will be a huge benefit for the Union. Not only will their skills be tested against the cultured Bhoys, but their organization and soccer brains will as well. Furthermore, when the results aren't really that important and the team can play with no pressure upon them, the squad will only grow.
It’ll be an acid test of sorts for Nowak. And, with the mighty Red Devils of Manchester United slated for a week later, not to mention two MLS league matches and a friendly with the Harrisburg City Islanders, the Union head man will surely have a better idea of where his team is when this month is done with.
For now, though, Philadelphia will focus on playing a strong game against a very tough side led by Celtic legend Neil Lennon. At the very least it’ll help them get their minds off the heartbreak endured against San Jose.