What happened to the Philadelphia Union?
The Supporters’ Shield winners and MLS is Back Tournament semifinalists had the trap door snap open underneath their feet on Tuesday night as the New England Revolution executed their upset plans to perfection in a 2-0 upset at Subaru Park, two rapid-fire goals in five-first-half minutes viciously cutting short the DOOP squad’s best season ever.
“In pro sports, in one-off games you can get beat. This can happen. This happens all over the world,” said Union coach Jim Curtin postgame. “You can be on the wrong end of a result. But when you do lose, you wanted to be having given your best. And tonight, for whatever reason, we weren't ourselves.
“Part of it's the opponent, they made us uncomfortable and they disrupted us and they did a great job. No question about it. But sloppy passes, bad turnovers, fell asleep on the restart [on Adam Buksa’s opener] – the things that we had done pretty well all season, we didn’t do tonight.”
Highlights: Philadelphia Union 0, New England Revolution 2
Was it a combination of swelled heads and expectations, combined with the rust of a lengthy layoff? The Revs were playing on four days’ rest in the wake of their Play-In victory over Montreal, giving the Union what’s supposed to be an advantage after a draining regular season. After Curtin did his best to shoot straight and seek some perspective, Alejandro Bedoya breathed fire when it was his turn to speak to the media.
“An abysmal first-half performance. That's what's so disappointing,” said Philly’s captain. “It was obviously a combination, I think, of a rustiness from not playing in two and a half weeks and some guys reading too many headlines, I suppose.
“I've been preaching it – let's continue with the momentum we had in the regular season, we hadn't really done anything. Yes, we won the Supporters’ Shield but to perform like that, at home, in front of our fans in the first half, just wasn’t us, man. I don't understand what we were doing.”
It's also a harsh reminder of how difficult it is to top both the regular-season standings and the MLS Cup trophy podium; only seven Shield winners have gone on to win the title.
Maybe it was the law of averages kicking in: These sides have now played six times in 2020 and the Revs didn’t win one until Tuesday. Or perhaps it was simply the effervescent quality of Carles Gil, New England’s multi-million-dollar playmaker and “obviously the best player on the field,” in Curtin’s words, a talent that Philly have no obvious parallel to.
“We weren't our sharpest tonight, I think everybody knows that. And when we're not all on our game, our margins are very small,” said Curtin. “We have to all perform well for us to have a chance. I think we did that in the previous New England games. But tonight they were a little bit better.”
2020 has been anything but normal, but one thing we could always count on was the support from you, our family.— PhilaUnion🛡 (@PhilaUnion) November 25, 2020
Thank you Union fans, for making this year one to remember. Even though it ended sooner than we’d hoped, we stay hungry, and we’ll come back stronger in '21 for you. pic.twitter.com/qYk49Ssoh2
The heartbreak was most palpable in the face and voice of young Homegrown Brenden Aaronson, who will move to Austria’s RB Salzburg this winter and was clearly anguished at how his final game for the Union – for now, at least – unfolded.
“I'm just going to go home and it's all going to hit,” said Aaronson. “This club has meant so much to me and to go out like that is just so tough. I wish we could have gave the city more again. We had a great season but I just wanted more and I think that, it's just hitting a lot now and tomorrow is probably going to be the same.”