Rookie Pedro Ribeiro scored in the 71st minute, lifting the Philadelphia Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-1, before a crowd of 18,073 Saturday night at PPL Park.
Brian Brown also scored and Cristian Maidana added two assists for a team-best 11 as the Union (10-11-12, 42 points) snapped a five-match winless streak (0-2-3) with a victory over the defending MLS Cup champions.
Sporting Kansas City (14-12-7, 49 points), however, already had clinched a fourth consecutive berth in the postseason before this match.
The Union were officially eliminated from the playoffs following a difficult 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew last Saturday.
But the club responded with three points against SKC, which played without All-Star Graham Zusi.
“I thought it was a good performance from our guys tonight,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. “I thought we ended the season the right way for our fans and for ourselves in a lot of ways. We wanted to put a team out on the field to have another shot at closing out a game. That came up tonight. We were up 2-1. How do we manage things? We wanted to do it from halftime on.”
Brown gave the Union a 1-0 advantage in the 45th minute, finishing a crisp cross from Maidana just before halftime.
“It felt great to score,” Brown said. “I’ve been working hard and it was great to be rewarded for it. It was just a matter of putting it in because I got a very nice pass from Chaco.”
In the 53rd minute, Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was whistled for a foul on Soony Saad in the box.
Dominic Dwyer converted a penalty kick in the 54th minute to equalize the match at 1-1.
Ribeiro, who entered as a substitute in the 69th minute, quickly put the Union back ahead 2-1 in the 71st minute.
Unlike the last two matches – a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire and a one-goal loss to the Crew -- the Union were able to hang on and secure three points.
“We showed some character,” Curtin said. “They scored the goal and it could have been another situation where everybody puts their head down. To our guys’ credit, I thought they put a lot into it.”
“It’s hugely disappointing because I thought we had a good group of players, a good mix of veterans and young guys,” Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath added. “I thought we played really well at times throughout the season. Unfortunately, we came up short too many times. That’s why we’re not making the playoffs.”
Earning a spot in the playoffs will be expected in 2015, according to Curtin.
“The focus now – the only words I’ll use around the guys is the playoffs for next year,” he said. “We’re not even going to talk about championships or anything like that. It’s about making the playoffs in 2015. That is the goal.”
The Union will close out the regular season Oct. 26 at Columbus.
Thoughts on Saturday's win over Sporting? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org