KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Scoreless streaks start long before anybody caught in the middle of them wants to refer to it as a “streak.”
The Philadelphia Union went one match without a goal. Then two. Then it was time to figure out the precise number of minutes since the last goal.
And then the Union went three matches without scoring.
It was a bona fide, official, club-record scoreless streak of 310 minutes heading into Friday’s match at Sporting Kansas City.
Philadelphia forward Conor Casey ended it with a goal from point-blank range in the 36th minute, providing the only tally in the Union’s critical 1-0 victory.
After going three matches, 346 minutes and more than a calendar month without a goal, some gallows humor was in order.
“I was right in front of the goal, so luckily I didn’t miss that one,” Casey deadpanned.
It was the sort of chance that would have slipped away in the previous three matches. Michael Farfan got a great look, but Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen got his hands on it.
It didn’t bounce away this time. It landed right at Casey’s feet. When the ball hit the back of the net, the Union were able to shake a 346-minute albatross off its collective back.
“It was about time. We’ve had plenty of chances to do it, but we just haven’t been that good in front of the goal for the last month. Today we really didn’t have that many chances and we were able to score,” Casey said.
The result rewarded Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who made three spectacular saves in the first 30 minutes and picked up his league-leading 11th shutout of the season.
The goal allowed the Union to play with the lead, something it hadn’t done since beating D.C. United 2-0 on Aug. 10.
“They put us under a lot of pressure for good chunks of the game but we defended really well,” Casey said. “Everybody, especially our back four. It was a great team defensive effort.”
Most important, the goal kept Philadelphia in the postseason hunt. The Union (11-10-9) have 42 points and are two points clear of New England for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Does a 346-minute scoreless streak take on a life of its own?
“Not anymore,” Casey said.
Yup, the streak is dead. But Philadelphia’s playoff hopes are alive and well.