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FC Cincinnati Sinks Union 1-0 On Questionable Goal Call

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    The common denominator is pain. Although the Philadelphia Union have only been playing since 2010, the Union have unquestionably earned their place right next to the teams from the other big four sports in this town with their runs of league record success, but mostly with the pain of defeat on the biggest stage just like their more established counterparts. The Union stamped another massive pain point on their resume with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium on Saturday evening in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Yerson Mosquera scored in stoppage time for Cincinnati on a goal that appeared to anybody not wearing blue and orange to have no business being counted, sending the Union into the short offseason in excruciating fashion. 

    In the first half Damion Lowe earned a yellow card in the 12th minute for a bad challenge on Lucho Acosta knocking him over just after Acosta played the ball. This immediately changed the tone of the game taking some edge off the Union defense as Lowe had to play restrained for the rest of the game to not earn a second yellow. Cincinnati had a good look in the 34th minute when Aaron Boupendza took a rocket shot from outside the box about 25 yards out but Andre Blake saved it in the bottom right corner to keep the score sheet empty. Jose Martinez countered with one of his trademark long range screamers in the 41st minute but it was saved in the bottom left by Cincinnati goalie Roman Celentano as the squads went into the half scoreless. 

    Early in the second half in the 47th minute Julian Carranza fielded a through ball from Daniel Gazdag in the right side of the box but it caught the side of the net. Carranza then picked up a yellow card a few minutes later in the 51st for a bad foul on Yerson Mosquera. Mosquera and Carranza continued to jaw at each other on and off for several minutes as play continued. After a Mikael Uhre shot was blocked in the 62nd minute, Carranza and Mosquera again had words and when Carranza lightly brushed him away Mosquera dove to the ground holding his face and flopping around like a dead fish for several minutes trying to draw a second yellow against Carranza. The officials did not buy the theatrics and play resumed. In the 76th minute Aaron Boupendza got tangled up with Jose Martinez in the midfield and Boupendza knocked Martinez’s ankle resulting in a Yellow Card for Boupendza and Martinez being helped off the field by Union Trainer Paul Rushing…who also earned himself a yellow card for some choice words to the officials. Jesus Bueno took Martinez’s place in the lineup. 

The match appeared to be slowly grinding its way to extra time, then disaster struck. In stoppage time at 90+4’ Alvaro Barreal sent a free kick over the pack where Ian Murphy headed the ball forward to an attacking Yerson Mosquera in the center of the box who easily sent a right footer into the bottom left of the net for the game winning goal. However, Murphy appeared to be in an offside position at the restart from every camera angle shown. The officials did not agree, and if there was a VAR check at all it was very brief and it was ruled a good goal, giving Cincinnati a controversial victory and ending the Union’s season. 

Highlights from Union Coach Jim Curtin’s postgame thoughts, with the full video posted below:

“It hurts but at the same time the group in the locker room fought hard…it’s never easy when decisions like that affect the finality of a lot of hard work.”

“We still did lose assignments on that last free kick, whether it’s offsides or not, so there’s always things you can improve and do better.”

“I think anywhere in the world the head coach would have a say in what’s up with his captain, I think there was a miscommunication for sure, so we’ll see how that plays out.”

“VAR is there for a reason to get things right and I’m not sure that it worked out tonight.”

“They (the officials) don’t have to answer any questions either, so I’m the one that has to sit up here with my season being over and they just get to leave…now I’m doing what I didn’t want to do, which was complain about the refs…it’s a tough ending to a season I’ll just put it that way.”

News and Notes:

  • Kai Wagner served the second game of his suspension for the incident in the first round against New England. He will serve the final game of the suspension next season if he is still playing in MLS and doesn’t sign a new contract overseas.
  • Jakob Glesnes traveled with the team but did not enter the game, and was likely listed as available for selection purely as a decoy several weeks removed from sports hernia surgery. 
  • Cincinnati has not conceded a second half goal at home since May 21.
  • Despite the loss, the Union remains the only team to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals in four of the last five seasons.
  • The Cincinnati victory along with Columbus defeating Orlando 2-0 sets up an All-Ohio Eastern Conference Final at TQL Stadium next week. 
  • Out west on Sunday, Houston defeated Sporting Kansas City 1-0 and LAFC with a 1-0 win of their own, on the road against Seattle setting up a Houston/LAFC Western Conference Final at BMO Stadium in LA. Both Conference Finals will be on Saturday December 2 showing on Apple TV+. 

JD Walker is one of the co-founders of Stream Punk Entertainment and has covered the Philadelphia Union since 2022. He has a wide-spanning career with experience in a variety of roles inside and outside the world of sports including basketball operations, gameday entertainment, promotions, broadcasting, and finance. He’s a Jersey Shore native sprung from a cage on Highway 9, and loves to geek out on the business and legal side of the games we all love.

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