It’s only fitting that the game that officially eliminated the Philadelphia Union from playoff contention was filled with bitterness and frustration.
That’s just the way the 2012 season has gone for them.
After scoring two unanswered goals to erase a 2-0 second-half deficit against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, the Union were victimized by an 87th-minute tally from Milovan Mirosevic, who appeared to be well offside on his game-winning strike.
“I just watched it a couple of times and I’m amazed,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s not even close. It’s a heartbreaker for us to fight that hard and be that brave and to lose it that way. It feels like we’ve been on the bad end of a lot of that this year, so it’s frustrating.”
FULL LINEUPS AND BOXSCORE
Some Union players made their frustrations public, with captain Carlos Valdés tweeting, “I can't believe they didn't call off-side in the last goal of Columbus.”
The Union also didn’t catch a break when there was no whistle after Antoine Hoppenot was taken down from behind right at the edge of the penalty area midway through the second half.
Of course, the Union were only in that position because they gave up two goals right before halftime, which has become a familiar trend. Over the past 10 games, they’ve allowed seven goals in the final five minutes of the first half – one of the many reasons they won’t be returning to the playoffs this year.
“I thought we established a little bit of control as the first half went on and then we had a big let-up in the last couple of minutes,” Hackworth said. “And that was very unfortunate because we didn’t feel like we should be down 2-0 going into halftime.”
Still, Hackworth was proud of how his team fought back, with Danny Cruz opening his Union account on a penalty kick after Hoppenot was taken down in the box and then Jack McInerney netting his fifth goal of the year on a cross from Roger Torres in the 86th minute.
OPTA Chalkboard: Subs change the game for Union
Hoppenot, McInerney and Torres were all second-half subs, spearheading a comeback effort that had Hackworth praising his team’s character. But then, just like so many other times this year, it got spoiled.
“The players at halftime knew we shouldn’t be down 2-0,” Hackworth said. “It’s the first thing we all talked about in there. The last thing [we talked about] was that we knew we could go out there and get two goals. To their credit, they did that.
“It’s just a shame we didn’t get a fair result in the end.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.