After a disappointing end to the 2013 season, it was clear that the Philadelphia Union simply were not good enough to make the playoffs. Their midfield in particular was very weak, and the front office set out to fix that in the offseason. The Union spent their January doing just that as they signed a trio of quality midfielders in hope of solving this glaring need.
It started with Argentine playmaker, Christian Maidana, who signed with the Union on January 15th. Maurice Edu joined Maidana on January 27th on loan from Stoke City and Vincent Nogueira rounded out the trio on January 30th. These three signings immediately made the Union midfield one of the best in MLS on paper. We as fans saw this as a major improvement and grew excited for the season to begin with the biggest need now seemingly taken care of.
The season itself, however, went a little different than expected for the Philadelphia Union. In their first game, the Union looked like they had the game in hand until they gave up a very late goal for the game to end in a draw. The Union went on to beat New England in their home opener the week after.
They would not go on to win another game until almost two months later when they beat Kansas City 2-1. Less than a month after this win, after a 3-3 draw to Vancouver, head coach, John Hackworth, was fired and Jim Curtin was named interim coach. In their next four months of league play after the firing of John Hackworth, the Union would only lose 3 times. By season’s end, Curtin’s interim tag was lifted.
Unfortunately for the Union, though, they could not overcome their horrific start even though they had a chance to control their own destiny with a win against Columbus in early October, but gave up a 2-0 lead in such a short span to lose 3-2. That loss eliminated them from the playoffs where the Union would eventually finish 6th in the Eastern Conference.
With a MLS campaign that looked doomed after their start to the season, the Union turned their attention to the US Open Cup as a way to salvage a disappointing season. The US Open Cup came with some struggles though and against the lower sides. In their first US Open Cup match, the Philadelphia Union looked likely to lose to USL PRO affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders, until an 89th minute Maurice Edu goal put the game into extra time.
Two goals by Andrew Wenger gave the Union a win. They would go on to face the New York Cosmos in the next round which would go in to extra time as well which the Union would eventually win. They would then handily beat New England and would go on to face FC Dallas in Texas. A game which went to penalty kicks, saw Zac MacMath make big saves to see the Union into the final.
Philadelphia hosted the US Open Cup Final against the Seattle Sounders. The fans came out in full support and created one of the best home atmospheres in the Union’s 5 year history. In a game of inches, this final defined that for the Philadelphia Union. As regular time closed down, Pedro Ribeiro had an open net and put the ball into the Stefan Frei’s lap.
No miss may have been bigger in the Philadelphia Union’s history so far, though, than Vincent Nogueira’s at the end of regular time in this final. Off a beautiful chipped ball from Maidana, Nogueira one timed the ball past Stefan Frei and off the post and away from the goal. If that went in, the Union would have surely walked away with a trophy. Instead the Union went on to lose 3-1 in extra time.
In a year full of what ifs and disappointment, the Union are in no different a spot as they were at the end of 2013. There are still plenty of needs. They saw Amobi Okugo go to Orlando City and Jack McInerney go to Montreal. Carlos Valdes returned amid tons of speculation and the most controversial signing in the Union’s short history, Rais M’Bolhi, play in only 4 games.
As the year comes to a close in just a couple of days, the Philadelphia Union will look to fill in the many other needs. Their midfield still remains solid, but they have a severe lack of depth along with a need for a true target striker to replace the aging Conor Casey. January will be another crucial month for the Union as they look to build a true playoff team this year and have a successful season.
What did you think of the Philadelphia Union’s season? Let us know in the comment section below.