The Philadelphia Union arrived in Columbus on the brink of making history, of all but locking up the first trophy in club history: the 2020 Supporters’ Shield awarded to the team that finishes top of the regular season.
They left Sunday night following a 2-1 loss to the Crew knowing they missed a big opportunity. And after the match there were questions regarding the play of backup goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who stepped in for injured regular Andre Blake and was beat on both goals.
If Union head coach Jim Curtin had concerns about Bendik, who is now 0W-21L-2D in his last 23 MLS games including 22 starts, he didn’t voice them after the game.
“Joe did his job. I thought he kicked the ball well, he organized the back line well, made some saves,” Curtin said in a video conference call with reporters. “Obviously, we didn’t give up a ton of chances, the chances were kind few and far between. I think we gave up maybe three shots that were on goal. Overall, he did a good job for us and was solid on the night.”
Curtin continued to back Bendik when asked about Krisztian Nemeth's decisive goal six minutes from time which saw a lofted cross into the six-yard box that reached the far post.
“Look, we win as a team, we lose as a team. We lost a bad ball up the field after being pretty much in control of the game at 1-1, missed five or six chances to make it 2-1,” Curtin said. “Kai [Wagner] lost a square ball in a part of the field where we probably shouldn’t play a square ball and it leads to the scramble. We still have a 3-v-3 to deal with there. He hits the ball on a windy day and the guy gets in behind [defender] Jakob [Glesnes] a bit.
“Again, a lot of people could have done better. We’re not going to point fingers because I know what you guys would love us to do.”
Watch: Nemeth scores the late winner for Crew
“I thought we adjusted to the game well,” Bendik said. “We left the guy twice and they capitalized on it. We were there, but now the focus has to shift to this weekend, go out there and get a W.”
Curtin said the Jamaican international is set for a surgical procedure on Monday to insert a pin in his hand, which would likely keep him out for between two to two-and-a-half weeks, as opposed to six weeks for the fracture to heal on its own, according to Curtin.
That means he’ll be out for the Union’s biggest regular season game in club history next Sunday when they'll hope to successfully conclude their Shield quest. And it’s likely Bendik will again be Blake's replacement.
“Everybody knows how good Andre is and how important he is for the team. But the same for Joe. He’s also a very good goalkeeper so nothing changes about that. We just do the same things,” Jamiro Monteiro said, adding, “I think we just need to finish our chances in the game and do better. We didn’t defend very good on the ball, so this is nothing on Joe.”
It’s all to play for on Decision Day presented by AT&T. The Union will be at Subaru Park, but they take on a stingy New England Revolution team that’s been difficult to break down. Yes, Philadelphia are 2W-0L-1D against the Revs during the regular season and also won 1-0 at the MLS is Back Tournament. They're also a perfect 8W-0L-0D in home matches this year.
But expect New England, who have already qualified for the postseason, to feel the same way Columbus did on Sunday and look to prevent a celebration at their expense.
“Playing the team that was at the top of the table who wanted to come in here and be able to celebrate the Supporters’ Shield and we didn’t want to let that happen — guys were not going to let that happen here on our home field.” Crew manager Caleb Porter said. “It’s great to get back to looking like us, winning and being a very good team."