Before Sunday’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes began, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth recognized that some of the weekend’s earlier results presented the Union with a big opportunity.
That opportunity only grew larger when the Union went up a man in the 57th minute following a red card shown to San Jose’s Rafael Baca.
But the Union failed to capitalize on those chances in a troubling 1-0 road loss, a result that had a bitterly upset Hackworth searching for answers following the game.
“We let an opportunity to separate ourselves in the table slip,” the Union manager said. “And we did it by having a poor performance. … We didn’t have a lot of quality, in particular in the first half. That’s not a good enough performance from our team.”
Had the Union been able to get a result, they indeed would have been able to distance themselves from New England, Houston and Chicago – all of whom lost before Philly stepped on the field – and move closer to the top of the Eastern Conference heap.
Now, those four teams are in what’s practically a dead heat for the final two playoff spots, while the Union (10-9-9) appear to be stuck in neutral offensively. Following Sunday’s shutout loss, Philly has scored just once in its last 375 minutes.
“We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard than we did tonight,” Hackworth said. “That level of play is unacceptable for this club and this organization, all the way around.”
The Union have now drawn 11 red cards this season, but they’ve often struggled to outscore their opponents while up a man. The story was no different at Buck Shaw Stadium as the Union generated some offense after Baca was sent off but struck the post twice and were thwarted by Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch on their other attempts on net.
For Hackworth, though, the most upsetting part about the game was what happened even before his team went up a man.
“You’ve got to be intelligent about the type of soccer you’re playing,” the Union manager said. “We sorted things out at halftime. But we lost that game in the first half and we could never get it back.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.