Just four days after a devastating penalty-kick shootout loss to Sporting Kansas City in the US Open Cup final, the Philadelphia Union traveled to Canada as an exhausted team – both mentally and physically.
And for much of Saturday’s game vs. Toronto FC, it showed, as the Union dropped a 3-1 decision at BMO field. The result officially eliminated them from playoff contention.
“First of all, congrats to Toronto,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin. “They were the better team on the day. It was always going to be tough coming off the heartbreaking Open Cup loss and rallying the troops after 120 minutes. But I thought we put up a decent fight.”
There were, in fact, a couple of highlights on the day for the Union.
The Union coach also said he was happy for Toronto native Steven Vitoria, who scored his first MLS goal and “did a good job winning balls in the air all day” in front of many family and friends.
But, in the end, the Union didn’t have enough in them on a day in which five Open Cup final starters – Sebastien Le Toux, Tranquillo Barnetta, Maurice Edu, Fabinho and Vincent Nogueira – didn't start.
“I actually felt pretty decent the first part of the first half,” said midfielder Michael Lahoud, one of the six players who started both of Philly’s games the past four days. “I thought we actually kept our shape pretty well and absorbed a lot of pressure. And it was a fluke goal that went in. But the second half, I thought they did a better job of moving the ball and making us chase a little more. And the tired legs started to show.”
The Union were certainly unlucky on Toronto’s first-half goal, which came when Giovinco’s free kick took a weird bounce off the wall. And Curtin called Toronto's two second-half goals, including an unfortunate Richie Marquez own goal, “a little strange and silly,” too.
But on a chilly and windy day in which Toronto dominated the statistical categories, Curtin didn’t offer any excuses.
And at the end of a tumultuous week that included the club’s second straight Open Cup final loss at home, the parting ways with CEO Nick Sakiewicz, and the game that mathematically eliminated the Union from the playoffs, Curtin can now start to look ahead to 2016.
“When the weather starts to turn, games tend to have more meaning,” the Union coach said. “Unfortunately for us, being out of the playoffs, that’s not going to be the case.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.