The night that was supposed to mark the first victory on the season for the Union started off just right. The driving rain dwindled to a light mist and eventually faded into overcast while the national anthems played out at Talen Energy Stadium. Jim Curtin made all the right roster moves as he started Keegan Rosenberry on the bench in favor of Ray Gaddis. If there was the match to get that sacred W it was this one – at home against the team sharing the spot with Philadelphia at the bottom of the table.
The game started off with all kinds of right. A beautiful goal in the 5th minute came as Sapong worked hard to beat a defender to the ball and gets a pass off while being pulled down. Alberg cut to beat the last man and slotted it home. Things were looking up.
Another great chance came three minutes later as Medunjanin showed his quality with a 60 yard long ball. Pontius wasn’t able to hit Alejandro Bedoya running into the box. Right after that the pacey winger from Montreal Oduro misses a sitter in front of goal. There was a general sense of optimism that the Union could catch some breaks.
The breaks kept coming as the second goal of the night went to the Union. An absolutely stunning and smart play from Medunjanin to play in a cross from the top of the box. Pontius redirected it to Sapong for an easy header. Union up two in the 24th minute. At this point Jim Curtin had not left his chair yet.
Right after the second goal Sapong proved why he should be first choice in the lineup. A creative turn against one of the best center backs in the league Laurent Ciman to spring Pontius wide open who couldn’t put it away with Camara barreling down on him.
Jim finally leaves his seat in 30th minute after Jack Elliot gets the penalty call as Camara takes him down from behind. It was quite a dumb decision by the Impact defender to go for that one. Alberg took the chance to put Union up 3 in the first half while burying his second goal of the night. At this point the Union are up 3-0 in the first half and Jim Curtin is sitting comfortably in his chair. He must feel safe right?
That safety got a little further away as Piatti dribbled through five defenders to take one back for Montreal in the 42nd minute. He made those defenders look silly as only a few select players in the league can do. The Union gave up a goal right before halftime to kill any momentum they had been building.
Right before halftime Oduro made a mess of a complete sitter to make it a one goal game. Halftime sounded with the score 3-1 Philadelphia Union, but it sure didn’t feel like that if you looked at the fans wavering uneasily in their seats.
A boring 2nd half was stirred up with a 69th minute goal from Montreal after a peach of a cross from Oyongo. Jackson-Hamel put it into the side netting beautifully with his head. This game was far from over with 20 minutes left.
In the 80th minute CJ Sapong took his 7th foul of the game tying a Union record.
A bad record (the winless one) would continue In the 87th minute as the Union gave up the tying goal. What should have been a save for one of the best keepers in the league, Blake instead left a rebound right in front of his net that’s plucked up by Jackson-Hamel for his second goal of the game.
To say the attitude in the press box was one of dread would be an understatement. The reporters that were there were almost at a nervous laughter, and the Union staff weren’t much calmer. What started as jubilation and optimism an hour prior ended with the most frustrating result in recent memory.
While the Union probably deserved this win, it goes without saying they still have not won a game in over 250 days. After the game an exasperated Bedoya claimed “nobody deserves a win more than these guys…I feel like we worked our butts off this week and in this game and it’s frustrating, it feels like a loss.”
While it was difficult to watch a frustrated Bedoya with close to tears in his eyes, it was even harder to see a flabbergasted Jim Curtin. I can’t blame him either for this one. You can only do so much to prepare and play the game and at some point there is no control over what happens. Piatti should not have dribbled through six defenders, and Blake should not have given up an easy rebound. I don’t think it’s fair to put those on Curtin, however I do think elite coaches don’t go winless for nine months at a time.
Another ominous raincloud entered the press conference, as Earnie Stewart loomed behind reporters with folded arms and a distant stare (Earnie doesn’t usually make an appearance). That stare might as well have been a nail in the coffin for Jim Curtin. Only time will tell as the Union face a hurting LA Galaxy in Los Angeles this Saturday at 10:30pm Eastern.