It wasn’t the Union.
It was not the team that entered the match unbeaten in its last five MLS matches.
Or the team that made it to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Against D.C. United on Saturday, this was an out of sync collective that by the time they caught up to speed, it was too late, finding the Union on the latter end of a 1-0 final at RFK Stadium.
Ten minutes in, United forward Luis Silva finished off a pinpoint floater in the box with a header that froze Union keeper Rais Mbolhi and ultimately gave United (15-9-6, 51 points) a commanding lead in a tight Eastern Conference race.
Meanwhile, the Union (9-10-11, 38 points) despite a valiant second half effort still fight for a spot in MLS’ postseason now battling for the fifth and final spot, the Columbus Crew and a Toronto FC team that snuck its way back into the playoff picture following a comeback win earlier in the day against Portland. Both teams sit on 40 points, with the Union trailing by just two with four crucial games remaining.
“We are just not finishing off our plays,” said Union forward Conor Casey postgame. “Whether it’s that last pass or that last ball…we are frustrated anytime we don’t score and it’s been a couple of games now were we have had some decent looks and just hadn’t made the most of them. Today was a little bit further off. But we still have some games ahead of us we just need to keep the focus and do better in front of goal.”
Despite the early goal, Mbohli was a strong presence in net making six saves on the afternoon. Defensively, the Union managed to keep United at bay, but it was an attack that looked frustrating at times, and certainly not indicative of a squad that for over two months looked revived under interim manager Jim Curtin.
“The goals have dried up,” Curtin said. “We are still getting chances; getting looks in front of goal, but we need to have a little more commitment to get into the box, we talked about that at halftime. The goals have dried up, but we are going to have to find a way to fight through it. We need to win three games in a row to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs.
Adding further insult to injury was an ankle sprain to Union talisman Sebastien Le Toux in the 28 th minute who came down awkwardly following a challenge. Le Toux returned to the field in crutches, but philadelphiaunion.com was told as a precaution.
“I was just putting pressure on the ball and my ankle rolled on the play,” Le Toux explained. “It’s just a bad roll…we’ll see, I hope that it’s minimal, but I won’t know for sure until I get an MRI.”
It’s another week of short rest for the Union who now look to pull even closer when it hosts Chicago in a Thursday night prime time matchup at PPL Park (8 p.m., purchase tickets). The match against the Fire in just one of four remaining as the regular season draws to a close with the playoffs on the horizon.
Right now, shaking off a poor performance is the only mindset for a team that has grand plans of being one of the last ones standing in the Eastern Conference.
“Chicago is a team that knows how to grind out [draws], so on our home field we’ll have to do a better job of committing more numbers into the box…it’s a commitment to get into the box. I am pleased that we didn’t give up a ton of chances on the day, but now it’s time to get back to finishing some of our own.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org