In a season filled with maddening finishes, this may have been the toughest one to stomach for the Philadelphia Union.
After falling behind 2-0, only to equalize in the 86th minute on a goal by Jack McInerney, the Union wound up losing 3-2 to the Columbus Crew Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
It wasn’t that the Union lost. It was how they lost.
Just one minute after McInerney’s goal, Crew midfielder Milovan Mirosevic posted the game-winner, even though he appeared to be offsides.
“To have [Mirosevic's late winner] not called offside; I just watched it a couple of times, I'm amazed,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I don't know what to say. It's not even close. It's a heartbreaker that way for us to fight that hard and be that brave, then lose that way. We've been on the bad end of a lot of that this season. It's frustrating.”
In the loss, the Union were officially eliminated from playoff contention, meaning they’ve advanced to the postseason once in their first three seasons.
Like a number of previous matches this season, however, the Union played well in stretches.
There just hasn’t been the 90 minute consistency. The same woes were conveyed Saturday night.
“We've just got to keep performing well,” Hackworth said. “We somehow continue to outplay our opponents in certain parts of the game, but we're still making too many little mistakes. We've got to clean that up. We've got to continue to improve and build toward next year. Obviously, we're out of [the MLS Cup playoff race] at this point.
“We have a tough couple of games, the next five games coming up. We're just trying to make sure that we do the same things we have been and hopefully build some momentum going into next year.”
Midfielder Brian Carroll will head into the offseason without a playoff berth for the first time in his nine-year career, including last year’s trip with the Union to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“It's unfortunate to go down 2-0 at half with the way we were playing, but we battled back,” Carroll said. “We showed some spirit and everything was looking positive there for a little bit. We switched off for a minute and that's what can happen. It’s just something that has happened a couple of times now. It's something we have to continue to learn and grow from. Credit to the guys for fighting back for everything. I guess it's just unfortunate to finish it off better.”
Say this about the Union – they kept fighting, clawing and scratching until the very end, even though they came up short. That’s a testament to Hackworth and the technical staff.
“I think it was really just the whole game, keeping possession, getting in good spots, moving the ball around,” Carroll said. “We just finally started creating some opportunities a little bit in a little bit bigger holes. The guys did a good job drawing a PK, Jack [McInerney] getting into dangerous spots. It just started to open up for us. We finished those chances that we were creating in the first half. It's unlucky, unfortunate. It feels just as bad.”
Contact Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org