The season ended in the same way it began – with a home loss to Sporting Kansas City.
The Union, which needed a win to keep playoff hopes alive, equalized late but was ultimately undone by Lawrence Olum's stoppage time goal.
It was a 2-1 scoreline and Sporting's third straight win at PPL Park that finally closed the door on the 2013 postseason.
"I hope everyone realizes what an effort the guys in that locker room put in today," said manager John Hackworth. "We were probably playing one of the best teams in the league. They may win the Supporters Shield, and if they do, congratulations to them. Our guys came out and played with everything they had, and they executed a good game in that first half. Giving up that goal early in the second half changes everything, so we had to do everything we could to get back in the game, and the hard part for us is that the draw doesn’t do us any good. Ultimately that left us very vulnerable in the back, and Sporting KC capitalized on that."
The Union finish the season seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 12 wins, 12 losses, and 10 draws.
Hackworth's team earned a franchise-best 20 points on the road this season but was shaky at times at PPL Park. The Union was 7-5-5 in Chester and could not establish the same home dominance displayed by the 2011 playoff team.
"It's tough, you know? We had a chance (to make the playoffs) all the way through," said Amobi Okugo, who started in the midfield in Brian Carroll's absence. "We had chances to put away teams behind us earlier in the season and we failed to do that and it caught up with us."
"We were in the hunt all year," added fullback Ray Gaddis. "For us to lose like we did, it's a little bit heartbreaking. You live and you learn."
Maybe it was a case of both overachieving and underachieving at different points in the season.
The club played very well against the West, beating Vancouver and Colorado on the road en route to a 3-2-4 record against non-conference opponents.
Twelve wins this season set another franchise record, besting the 2011 squad that finished with eleven total wins. Other forward steps included the first positive results at Red Bull Arena, BC Place, Crew Stadium, and Rio Tinto.
Still, the disappointment of results like the draws against Dallas, Salt Lake, and Toronto, kept the team from separating itself from the pack at a time when the Supporter's Shield was absolutely within reach.
"It's disappointing obviously," said Jack McInerney, who finishes the season with a team-best twelve goals. "I don't think really anyone expected us to be here, but we knew we had the talent. A couple finishes or stops here or there and we're easily in the playoffs. We've just got to improve upon it and fix these mistakes."
"I mean, within the locker room, we feel like we underachieved," said Okugo. "Our mindset was to make the playoffs. We had that (as a goal). From the outside looking in, I don't think a lot of people had us competing within the playoff picture for the whole season. I know there was a point in time where we were in third place and we could have put a stamp on it, but that's the way it goes."
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Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org