In the one of the wildest final 15 minutes at PPL Park, the Philadelphia Union had to settle for a disappointing draw after Kennedy Igboananike equalized in extra time following a series of unfortunate missed calls. Igboananike’s goal immediately followed a 90th minute go-ahead goal from Sebastien Le Toux that sent 17,608 at PPL Park into hysteria after the Union finally broke down the wall that was Sean Johnson.
But, as it had seemed destined for night, the goal wasn’t enough.
Head coach Jim Curtin has seen just about everything in his first full season as manager of the Union, but Sunday’s draw, in which the Union conceded the equalizer in extra time, stung perhaps more than any.
“Mentality wise, you have to be able to close the game out at that stage,” Curtin said. “It’s a tough one to give up a goal a minute after. Whether it’s a hand ball or not – well, it is a handball on the sideline, let me be clear about that. They missed it. But at the same time, still, to recover, to realize that you worked so hard to finally get the lead, and to maybe make a play for your team, maybe four or five times where we could have done that. And we don’t, and again another wild game.”
It was hands-down the best Union offensive performance of the season. The team’s 20 shots were a season-high, as was the 11 on target. The Union hadn’t put more than 7 on target against an opponent all year, something they accomplished twice against Portland and New York City, respectively.
Leading the charge was midfielder Cristian Maidana. The Argentinian had three assists on the night – the second time he’s done that this year and the third time he’s done that in his Union career – to move up to 14 assists in 2015. That broke the Union’s single-season record of 12 (set by Sebastien Le Toux in 2013) and also moved Maidana past Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber for first place in MLS this year.
"He’s calm on the ball, he gets in dangerous positions and he serves the ball in both in the run of play and on set pieces,” said Sunday's captain Brian Carroll. “He’s an important piece for us and we need to keep feeding him the ball and letting him create, continue to do a good job of finishing what he sets up."
It started off a set piece in the 21st minute with the Union down 1-0. Maidana took a corner kick and swung a ball in for Fernando Aristeguieta, who covertly slid through the Chicago defense and perfectly slotted one past a few defenders and Johnson.
Just 10 minutes later, the Union grabbed the lead and Maidana grabbed the record. After a long run by Maidana off a counterattack, he found Fabinho near the 18 and the defender’s shot deflected off a Fire defender and into the back of the net for the lead.
“I’m very content about this,” Maidana said through a translator after the game. “They just recently told me about it and I’m happy to help out the team in any way I can. It’s a shame that we didn’t get a win tonight but at least we got the point and I’ve got to keep moving forward and help the team in any way I can whether it be assists or another way.”
That’s where the game stood at halftime and after Chicago equalized from Patrick Nyarko in the 54th minute, the Union were back to dominating play – only to repeatedly be denied by Johnson.
The young goalkeeper with a promising future for the U.S. Men’s National Team put on a dazzling display that included highlight-reel stops against Maidana, C.J. Sapong, Richie Marquez, Brian Carroll and Le Toux, all in the final 10 minutes.
But it was Le Toux who finally broke through in the 90th minute, only to be undone by Igboananike.
But it was tough circumstances for the Union, who were adamant they didn’t do a good enough job of defending it, either.
The play started with Jason Johnson taking down a cross that appeared to be done with his left arm. A ball was then sent in for Harrison Shipp that also appeared to go past the end line for a goal kick before the young American sent a ball back into the box. Once again the ball flirted on the end line with Mike Magee sending it back into the box where it ultimately fell to Igboananike, who made no mistake in blasting his attempt past a helpless John McCarthy.
"“We invent different ways to blow leads,” Curtin said. “It’s unacceptable, you score three goals at home, you should win no matter what. And, again, I’m upset because neither team really benefits from a tie. You have two teams at the bottom of the table; a tie really does nothing for us.”
Added Carroll: "Once we have the lead we need to continue to push and have a stronger mentality to finish off the game and win."
For two teams at the bottom of the standings, the draw does neither really any good. For the Union, they moved to 6-13-6, four points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Chicago moved to 6-12-5 and remain one point behind Philadelphia.
Next up for the Union will be a crucial road match against Montreal. The Impact own that sixth and final playoff spots and also have four games in-hand on the Union. Kick if scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday night in Quebec.
Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.