Union coach Jim Curtin apologizes for first half vs. NYC: "That was not us"

NEW YORK – It’s not about losing Vincent Nogueira midweek or that C.J. Sapong was injured. It wasn’t even about the claims for a late penalty kick that could have resulted in a dramatic equalizer.

For the Philadelphia Union, Saturday’s 3-2 loss to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium can be chalked up to just one thing – a bad start.

Before the game was a half-hour old, the Union faced a two-goal deficit on goals by Frank Lampard and David Villa. Andrea Pirlo made it 3-0 five minutes into the second half.

“I’d like to apologize to our fans who traveled here, also our fans watching at home, for our first half,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “That was not us, not what we’ve been about. I take responsibility for that. I didn’t have them ready to play. That’s on me.”

The fight and the rally, Curtin said, is on the players. It started with a Roland Alberg penalty-kick goal five minutes after Pirlo’s free kick. After NYCFC was reduced to 10 on Jason Hernandez’s second yellow card and an own goal by Frederic Brillant two minutes from full time, there was a belief that Philadelphia could escape Yankee Stadium with at least one point.

And then there were claims for a PK just before the final whistle – very legitimate claims according to Curtin after Alberg went down just inside the box after colliding with RJ Allen. Bu referee Silviu Petrescu did not make the call, instead blowing the whistle moments later to end the game.

“I know that’s a penalty at the end of the game too – 100 percent,” Curtin said. “I guess in that big of a moment for the referee it’s a tough decision in their building to make that call. But it’s a foul, it’s a penalty kick. He missed a few other ones as well, against New York City as well, they had some bad calls against them.”

Added Alberg: “Yes, in my opinion, this is a PK, 100 percent. That’s my opinion.”

After a turbulent week off the field that saw Nogueira leave the club for personal health reasons, the Union were punished for a slow start on the field and saw their eight-game unbeaten streak snapped.

Still, Curtin and his team wasn't making excuses for Nogueira’s absence or for missing their top scorer Sapong to an ankle injury.

“Of course when you lose there’s going to be speculation. We lost Vincent Nogueira, he’s a great player,” Curtin said. “It’s difficult on the guys, probably more mentally than physically I would say. At the same time, the league doesn’t stop and wait for you.”

The games are indeed coming fast for the Union, who now host Chicago on Wednesday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) before facing the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

“I think Coach Jim said it best, we have players to step up and we all work hard on the field for the opportunity,” Richie Marquez said. “It’s just sticking together and coming out on Wednesday.”