Home Soccer Philadelphia Union’s agonising MLS Cup defeat a sad end to stellar season

Philadelphia Union’s agonising MLS Cup defeat a sad end to stellar season


LOS ANGELES — How do you recover from such a broken heart? The Philadelphia Union went 1-0, then 2-1 to level with LAFC in Saturday’s MLS Cup final. The guests even scored a go-ahead in the fourth minute of stoppage time in the second half of extra time, but conceded on the last breath of the game.

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As the hosts were forced to bring in backup goaltender John McCarthy after number one Maxim Crepo was red-carded and then taken off the field with a horrific leg injury, everything seemed to work out for Philadelphia as the game moved towards a penalty. . And then McCarthy, a Philadelphia-born and former Union goaltender, made two shootout saves to win the game’s MVP award and ensure the home crowd would see their team win the MLS Cup.

“It’s tough, man, it’s really tough right now,” Philly manager Jim Curtin told the media after Saturday’s finale. “I feel terrible about the players because they have invested so much in the season, in the game, and right now they are hurting, and this is natural and normal. bring a smile to each other’s faces because they did something pretty amazing.”

Regardless of how this game ended, they did it. Midway through this season, it looked like the LAFC was about to run away with the fan shield and, in all likelihood, the MLS Cup.

But while the Black and Golds swooned at the end of the summer after signing Gareth Bale, Giorgio Chiellini, Denis Buanga and Christian Tello, Union reeled from their West Coast rivals. At the end of the campaign, Philadelphia tied on points with LAFC, abandoning the Fan Shield in a tiebreak – Los Angeles had 21 wins to Philadelphia’s 19.

It doesn’t matter in the end, but to give you an idea of ​​how good Union has been this season: they’ve only lost five games in a year; the next closest, LAFC, had nine. Their goal difference was another league-leading +46; Second-place Los Angeles lost 18 goals worse.

“I think you can have a great season, but the season ends perfectly for only one team in 28, and this season it’s LAFC,” Curtin said. “I think I just said I’m proud of a group that lost maybe two or three times in my coaching career and I’m still very proud of the team, we were as close as can be. be in our first MLS Cup.”

It won’t happen right away, the grief is yet to be endured, but the Philadelphia coach mentioned it repeatedly in his press conference: he’s already thinking about next year and how to build this incredible season. The expansion draft is less than a week away, MLS free agency opens in 10 days, and a decision will soon need to be made on which players will remain in 2023.

“I think the most important thing here is to keep this group together and it won’t be easy because when you have success people want a little more and then they deserve a little more because we have a great team and great players. ,” Curtin said of the potential compositional decisions the Union will face in the coming weeks and months. “So I hope we can keep this group together, maybe add a couple of bits that give more depth and cover.”

This will be easier said than done.

Midfielder Paxten Aaronsohn, 19, the younger brother of former Union prodigy and now Leeds United standout Brenden Aaronsohn, is set to sign for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, a source confirmed to Sportzshala’s Tom Hamilton on Friday. Left-back and two-time All-Star Kai Wagner has been linked with a return to Europe for months, with rumors most often circulating of a reunion with the elder Aaronsohn at Leeds.

If both leave, a bitterly disappointing Saturday in November could turn into an unsettling off-season. However, similar things were said when Brenden Aaronsohn and Mark McKenzie left for Salzburg and Genk respectively in January 2021. Since then, Union have reached the Eastern Conference Finals and the MLS Cup in consecutive seasons.

Major League Soccer has reached such a level of development that few clubs are more dependent solely on individual talent. Philadelphia has shown that it has the coaching skills and room to grow to overcome any offseason losses and return next season with legitimate plans to get even better.

“We’re close and we can win the MLS Cup, but it shouldn’t have happened today,” Curtin said. “I hope this group stays together for years to come. I think we can try again in this case, but right now it hurts and we have to regroup and deal with the off-season.”

Source: www.espn.com