CHESTER, Pa. -- Coming home after a near month-long road trip, the Union had hope that rest, mixed with home-field advantage, could push them out of a five-game winless slump and into the postseason.
Instead, Carlos Rivas happened.
The Orlando City forward broke the game open in the second half, as the visitors stunned the sloppy Union, 2-0, on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.
“Disappointing performance from everyone, from the staff to the players,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “We let our fans down in a big way. Today we had a great opportunity.”
But despite the lackluster effort and lost opportunity, the Union have reason to celebrate. With the Chicago Fire's 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Sunday, the Union have effectively, but not officially earned a playoff spot. The Union have three points and a double-digit goal differential tiebreaker over the Revs heading into the final match of the season.
“It doesn’t feel like an accomplishment because it’s not 100-percent yet,” Curtin said. “At the same time, we put ourselves in a good position with tiebreakers.”
Winless in their last six games, the Union face the New York Red Bulls at home next Sunday in a game that will solidify the team's playoff seeding. If the Revs don't make up a plus-12 goal differential in a win and Union loss, the Union will land as either the fifth or sixth seed.
“We have to improve on everything,” said Union veteran Chris Pontius. “To a man, if we’re holding each other accountable, it wasn’t good enough tonight in a pressure situation. It’s a game that we should win at home. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
But the Union's hope for a clean playoff berth fell apart in the 59th minute, when a Fabinho turnover in the midfield saw Rivas streaking into Union territory unimpeded. As Rivas tore into the box, Andre Blake came out aggressively which allowed the Orlando City player to loft a slow trickle shot over the goalkeeper and on net.
“He did make a big touch and I got out there, got a piece of it,” Blake said. “It bounced back, hit him and it went back toward the goal. It was just tough. I would say he had a bit of luck, but it happens sometimes.”
In an attempt at a miracle save, Keegan Rosenberry booted the ball but found only net for the Union own goal and 1-0 Orlando City advantage.
“Hopefully after tonight’s performance all the guys get a wake-up call from here on forward,” Blake said. “We have to pull up our sleeves and do better.”
Julio Baptista added the insurance goal in stoppage time for the 2-0 win.
The Union’s best chance of the match game in the 67th minute, when a deflected cross from Fabian Herbers popped high into the air. Aggressively playing the jump ball, Pontius got a strong header off that was saved away at point-blank range from Joe Bendik.
“We can’t be this team that’s wobbling into the playoffs,” Pontius said. “You want to be hitting your stride. We have to put together a good performance next weekend.”