In the season finale at Crew Stadium, it was a late Columbus goal that did the Union in yet again this time finding Philadelphia on the latter end of a 2-1 final score line.
Despite controlling much of the play and being creative in the offensive third, a 90th minute tap-in from Crew substitute Bernardo Anor secured Columbus (14-10-10, 52 points) three points and a third place finish in the East, ensuring the Crew will not have to compete in the first round of Major League Soccer playoff action.
As for the Union (10-12-12, 42 points) the loss finds the team finish the 2014 MLS season sixth in the East and just a mere five points shy of the final playoff spot.
However, promise for the future of the Union arrived in the 85th minute from second half substitute Zach Pfeffer, who made a well-timed run, received a square pass from teammate Amobi Okugo and scored his first MLS goal underneath the legs of Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark.
“It was awesome,” said Pfeffer of his first MLS tally. “It was my first Union goal and my first MLS goal so I am just very grateful for that. This was another opportunity that I’d had to make an impression and I am glad I got the chance today. I tried to come in and make an impact and I am glad I was able to today. Obviously, it would have been nice to get a result so it comes with a loss, but I am happy that my hard work was rewarded and I was able to help the team.”
It would be the Crew that would strike first in this one after a through ball from Ben Speas through the middle of the Union defense found an onrushing Jairo Arrieta in the 13th minute. Free in the box, Arrieta danced around a sprawling Zac MacMath and scored his fifth goal of the season for the Crew. The Union placed high pressure on the Crew following the goal, created turnovers and advanced the attack on Columbus for much of the game.
Much of said attack was spearheaded by midfielder Danny Cruz, who ran at Crew defenders and put himself into position to get four shots squarely directed on goal (five total shots), but found Clark up to the task on all of them. In fact, it was Clark who was forced to make six saves on goal in this one.
For the Union, it was a season that all can attest came with a lot of ups and downs -- in addition to some quality moments to savor. Making a run to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup in addition to a valiant fight to make MLS' postseason all leave aspirations of bigger and better things to come in 2015 all starting with what moves and additions will be made this offseason. With two new teams set to join in 2015 in New York City FC and Orlando City FC, the competition is getting fierce and undoubtedly so will the Union as a quest to no longer find its annual campaigns end on the last day of the regular season starts now.
“We put ourselves in a position where the final three weeks really mattered,” said Cruz postgame. “We made a couple of mistakes over those weeks. This game could have been for the playoffs [for us]…but there is obviously things we need to continue to improve on. We need to focus on closing out games, we put ourselves in a position this year to win games and unfortunately in the 75th minute on, we struggled with that. But there are positives to take from this season and we will take those and move forward.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org