Santos, who scored three goals in Philadelphia’s prior two Knockout Stage games, was riding a hot streak. But the Brazilian striker skied his attempt high over the crossbar after Sebastian Blanco fouled Jamiro Monteiro, providing a head-in-hands moment in first-half stoppage time instead of a 1-1 equalizer. Santos, according to online records, had never taken a PK in his professional career.
“We’re not going to sit here and blame. ... He missed and that happens in sports,” Curtin said. “We had plenty of time to get a goal, to get opportunities, we did create a lot of opportunities. So we’re not going to sit here and blame one player for a missed PK. It happens in sports.”
Added Curtin later on: "He’s a striker and he took the penalty. It happens, he missed."
In another discussion-worthy moment, Curtin addressed Kacper Przybylko’s apparent equalizer in the 86th minute that was waved off for being offside. It would have been Philadelphia’s second goal in as many minutes, capping an incredible comeback after Brenden Aaronson’s clever through ball.
Asked how he perceived the call, Curtin said it could’ve gone either way.
“It’s close. I’ve seen replays and still frames now where you can make a case that he’s even,” Curtin said. “Again, from the angle I was live, you couldn’t really tell. It’s a close call, the linesman puts his flag up which makes it now [that it] has to be conclusive that you can reverse it. If he keeps it down, which they’re told to do, maybe the call goes our way when they take a look at it because it is so tight.”
Curtin wasn’t one to make excuses, though, repeatedly noting that they had chances to book a final spot. He instead lamented how two Portland corner kicks were the difference, especially how Jeremy Ebobisse’s 13th-minute header shifted the Timbers into the driver’s seat. It also marked the first time Philadelphia trailed all tournament, putting them in a position they hadn’t yet encountered.
And while heading home at this juncture stings, Curtin doesn’t want the result to detract from his squad’s progress, even though their long-awaited first major piece of silverware will have to wait.
“I won’t allow it to take away from the strides and growth that the team has made during this competition,” Curtin said. “We challenged them to take a step into the next level of teams in this league. I think we did that, I think we had a lot of great performances from a lot of players. Really still proud of the group for the work they put in each and every day.
“I think we’ll take a lot of momentum into the regular season that’ll be getting started soon. So it hurts to lose, you always want to win, you always want to move on, but if we’re being honest it wasn’t our sharpest day of soccer and credit to Portland for making it hard on us."