That is the importance now of pulling three points out of next week’s match against Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park. In its final trip to Canada in the 2013 regular season, the Union was unable to return to Philadelphia with valuable points in a tight playoff race, following a gut wrenching 2-1 loss against Montreal on Saturday.
It was the Union that opened the scoring account in the 29th minute as midfielder Fabinho finished off a nice run into the box, with a great goal past Montreal (14-12-7, 49 points) goalkeeper Troy Perkins. However, the Impact would answer in the second half after goals from forward Marco Di Vaio and Karl Ouimette snapped the Impact’s six-game unbeaten streak.
At the time of this report, securing a playoff spot was not out of reach for the Union barring the results of other matches going on later in the day. To stay alive, the Union (12-11-10, 46 points) needed losses from Chicago (vs. Toronto) and Houston (vs. New York) along with its energies squarely focused on taking care of business against Sporting Kansas City next Saturday (3 p.m., purchase tickets).
“Giving up two goals like that is unlucky for us – we have to do better,” said Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. “We should’ve tried to get a better control of the game in the second half because I thought we played a very solid first half. It should have been us dictating the game ourselves and not [Montreal] dictating that last 45 minutes.”
It was a Union team devoid of some of its better playmakers. The club was without forward-midfielder Sebastien Le Toux due to a foot injury, Michael Farfan out due to yellow card accumulation and midfielder Michael Lahoud, who spent the weekend in Philadelphia to rehab his ankle injury.
One major positive was the second half substitution of forward Antoine Hoppenot in the 67th minute. Hoppenot, who served as the team’s spark plug for much of the season, was at it again, running at the tired – and aged – legs of Montreal’s back line. Hoppenot managed to create chances in the box for his club, but again it came down to the inability to finish chances and create that second goal.
“We played a good first half,” said Union forward Conor Casey. “But in the second half they threw numbers forward and made it tough. I did think we had a couple of decent chances in the second half as well we just weren’t able to put one away.”
So now it comes down to the final game of the regular season. Depending on one of those results holding true in the aforementioned Eastern Conference matches, three points against Sporting Kansas City is a must. Earlier this season, the Union traveled to Kansas City and pulled three points after a calculated lineup and formation proved successful.
Now as the cliché goes, Philadelphia just needs lightning to strike twice.
“This is a playoff game before the playoffs,” Union manager John Hackworth said postgame. He was referring to the match with the Impact, however the same hold true heading into next Saturday. “Our expectations were that we were going to come in and get a victory…the players understand what’s on the line, we’ve all talked about it. And if we are still mathematically alive heading into next weekend than you can trust we’ll be putting everything we can into it.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org