The sun set on another Union season, but not without a fight.
Needing to defeat Sporting Kansas City and hope for heroics the following day to inch into MLS’ postseason picture, those dreams were dashed at the hands of Sporting following a 2-1 defeat at PPL Park.
Sporting KC got on the board first behind a goal from playmaker Graham Zusi in the 47th minute, but in the 88th second half substitution Jack McInerney sparked life, scoring his 12th of the season cleaning up a Jeff Parke header in the box. It was a classic McInerney finish who once again found himself in perfect position to put home the goal.
However in stoppage, midfielder Lawrence Olum crushed hopes finishing off a break away from teammate Teal Bunbury to secure the win and three points. Those points push Sporting now one match closer to securing MLS’ Supporters Shield needing only a loss or a tie from New York in its home finale against Chicago Sunday (5 p.m., UniMas).
“The last 10 minutes we were down a goal and we can’t take the tie, all we can do is win,” said defender Amobi Okugo. “Jack did a good job to get the goal but when we tried to get the second one, we were playing just two in the back. [Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy] Nielsen played a good ball out on the following play and they scored.
“It’s tough. We had chances all the way through, we had chances to put away teams behind us earlier in the season and we failed to do that and then it caught up with us.”
For the Union, while its playoff hopes were closed, the club can celebrate finishing with its second best record in its four-year history and the most wins in club history ending the season at 12-12-10 (46 points) overall. Additionally, this season marked the first a pair of players have double digits in the goal scoring category courtesy of McInerney (12) and Conor Casey (10).
“I think there are a lot of guys in the locker room who are going to be back here next year,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “I believe a lot of these guys are really going to profit from this year and the experiences that this team has had. It is hard for me to sit here and tell you guys that I think the future looks bright [after such a tough loss], but in fact, I really believe that it does. We have a couple of pieces that we need to change, and we have some tough decisions in the off season, just like any other team, but I would look at it very optimistically.”
It was the Union who looked as if they were going to play the role of spoiler initially, pressing the attack, sparked by the duo of Kleberson and Michael Farfan in the midfield, the latter who played smart balls into teammates and exhibited a physical presence winning 50-50 balls and creating chances. Union manager John Hackworth decided to go with forward Antoine Hoppenot as a midfielder-forward in this one in a hybrid 4-3-3 formation and found the second year player up to the task running at the likes of Sporting Kansas City’s bigger back line.
The stat sheet will show the Union edged Sporting in possession and kept pace with chances created (SKC, 16-Union, 12), but the stat that mattered most, getting points to keep hope alive is the only one that will haunt.
- View: Full match statistics
“We are a young team and we got a lot of positives out of this season going into next season, said Union defender Ray Gaddis. “It’s very disappointing. We were in the hunt all year and for us to lose like we did, it’s heartbreaking a little bit but you live and you learn. What we take from this season and apply it to next season we will be alright.”
Season’s end came too quickly for Philadelphia. What is does is give players a chance to regenerate early and a technical staff determined to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in MLS’ East next season the proper time to plan that attack. Trust new faces will join with a nucleus that doesn’t need much for those aspirations to come to fruition.
That ideology is perhaps summed up best by Union fan Britt Williams, who took to Twitter to post this regarding the 2013 Philadelphia Union campaign
— Britt Williams (@_BRiTTwiLLs) October 26, 2013
What were your thoughts on the Union this season? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com