The Union's season in five forgettable moments
At the risk of the going down that same road – and trust me, that drum has been thoroughly beaten at PPL Park in recent weeks – the Union’s season does boil down to a few key moments. The team’s fate was ultimately sealed but its alarming propensity to turn wins into draws (or worse). (As a quick editorial note: I think it was a fair fate; teams that have to scuffle for draws against Toronto and D.C. United a total of three times this season don’t deserve postseason soccer. There are certainly an equal number of breaks that shouldn't have gone the Union's way that did. )
Below are five moments, a cumulative matter of inches, that stood between the Philadelphia Union and the playoffs … perhaps, the Supporters’ Shield.
A big (Le) miss
It was a long, long time ago, however similar the weather Saturday may have been to opening day March 2. The opener for the Union against Sporting Kansas City goes down as a 3-1 loss, but what is missed in that score line is the fact that the Union not only scored first, but had a chance to score several more times. The most clear-cut opportunity was this miss by Sebastien Le Toux, 1-v-1 against Jimmy Nielsen, one of several times this season the Frenchman’s finishing has been less than spot-on (plus more later). I won’t pretend that this miss would’ve somehow turned the Union into world-beaters. But up 2-0 inside of a half hour against the eventual runner-up in the East would’ve certainly made a strong case for three points in the opener, and then who knows…
The hand of Gonzalez(es)
Yeah, there’s no way we get out of this without validating at least some of the woe-is-me rhetoric circulating PPL Park. Let’s set aside for a moment that the Union squandered a second-half lead in this one, or that they allowed a significantly weakened Seattle side to squeak away with a point at PPL Park, or the fact that the two Danny Cruz goals scored in as many minutes accounted for 67 percent of his offensive production and a staggering quarter of the goals from midfield all season. Had any of those issues been rectified, that May 4 afternoon or as the season wore on, this analysis might be academic. As it is though, the Union were wrongly denied a penalty in this case, the ball clearly striking the outstretched arm of Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez off a Conor Casey shot. Referee Jorge Gonzalez didn't see it that way, though. Little did they know it would be the start of the fifth penalty-free season in the last 14 MLS seasons.
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Labels: Blas Perez, Chris Albright, Conor Casey, John Hackworth, Keon Daniel, Leo Gonzalez, London Woodberry, Michel, Philadelphia Union, Ray Gaddis, Seattle Sounders, Sebastien Le Toux, Sporting Kansas City, Tally Hall