It should’ve been one of the Top 10 plays on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Instead, it was a game changer. A momentum shifter, if you will. Except not in the way the Union would have expected.
In the 30th minute of Philadelphia's match against Houston Saturday night, Keon Daniel lined up to hit a free kick from about 40 yards out. Daniel caught every inch of the ball as it sailed through the hands of Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall for looked to be the game’s first goal.
Enter DOOP song, smoke from the River End...should've been a poignant moment.
Instead, the goal was disallowed by referee Mark Kadlecik.
“When the ball was played, the Union player (Union defender Amobi Okugo) was judged to be offsides, so therefore he was penalized for being offsides on that play,” Kadlecik said. “The offsides player (Okugo) interfered with the keeper. It didn’t matter if it was physical or not. If they're offsides, they are interfering with play.”
Instead of Daniel’s blast becoming fuel to stoke a three-point favor for the Union, it was Houston that would leave the Chester waterfront with the result, after a goal from forward Ricardo Clark gave the Dynamo a 1-0 win at PPL Park. With that said, the Union (10-10-9, 39 points) was leapfrogged in MLS’ play as Houston (11-10-7) sits fourth in the East with 40 points. Conversely, Philadelphia remains at 39 points with New England and Chicago on its coat tails.
In a match between the aforementioned pair also on Saturday, it was Chicago that defeated New England, 3-2, keeping the Union tied in points with the Fire for the fifth and final playoff spot although Chicago jumps ahead via goal differential (+1).
Daniel was unavailable for comment postgame, but Union manager John Hackworth had this to say:
“This is a cruel game sometimes,” said Hackworth. “It just feels like in a lot of ways, we can’t catch a break. That’s not the reason that we are sitting here where we are [in the standings], but sometimes you need the ball to bounce your way a little and certainly not have outside factors take goals away and affect your game. “
It certainly took the wind out of collective sails as the second half found the Union eager to finish their chances, but unable to put one away. The final stat sheet found the Union with nine chances on goal, but with Houston's Hall needing to make just one save. The loss also was the first time this season the Union lost back-to-back games after coming off a disappointing result against San Jose a week earlier.
View: FULL MATCH STATISTICS
One monumental positive however was yet again strong play on the left flank from Fabinho. Pushed higher into an outside midfield role given the return of Okugo to central defense, Fabinho smartly created space for himself and whipped in stellar crosses that kept Hall on his toes and gave the Union every chance to forge ahead.
“He certainly is a dangerous player at left midfield and he showed that tonight,” said Hackworth. “His service…he put in three of the best balls in that first half and it’s just unfortunate we weren’t able to really get him an assist on one of those. It’s hard to fault him and a lot of our other guys when we play as well as we did in that game and lose. “
With a week off, the Union returns to MLS action when they travel to Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 27 (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). It’s a well-timed respite given the frustrating events that have transpired over the last few weeks for the club and it will lend a ton of perspective as the Union look get back on track as the postseason picture continues to be a dogfight in MLS’ Eastern Conference.
“It was tough for the fans, they are excited to see a goal and to have it called back in that fashion," said Okugo. "The refs were indecisive about what it was. The fans come here and they are an experienced, intellectual fan base. They’ll let you know if it’s a bad call or if it’s the right call. We feel gutted for the fans. We need to take these two weeks and make sure we come out stronger and better – bottom line.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org