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Philadelphia Union frustrated by ugly second half during road loss to NYCFC

Alejandro Bedoya lamented a penalty kick call and the team’s late-game performance

Jun 29, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11) plays the ball against New York City FC defender Ben Sweat (2) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

BRONX, N.Y. —For the first time in the 2019 Major League Soccer season, the Philadelphia Union were hit square in the jaw and could not get off the mat to provide a response. 

The Union did not play the part of a first-place team during Saturday’s 4-2 loss to New York City FC during which they let two leads slip away and emotions get the best of them after a controversial penalty concession in the 55th minute. 

The penalty in question was debated at length by captain Alejandro Bedoya after the match. The Union midfielder was livid the contact he made with Valentin Castellanos was ruled a penalty by referee Alex Chilowicz. 

“Have you seen the replay? Do you think it’s a penalty? No, I don’t think so,” Bedoya said. “Last time I checked, soccer is a contact sport, right? It’s not like I pushed him from behind. It wasn’t even shoulder to shoulder. I was in front of the guy. I just saw the replay right now. The guy just throws his head back. It’s a flop. That would have never been called in the run of play outside of the box. I was just pissed because the first explanation the ref gave me was he thought I pushed him from behind. And that’s completely BS because I was in front of the guy.” 

The frustration over the call lingered and Philadelphia couldn’t regain momentum.

The Union, who are now 0-5-1 in their club history at Yankee Stadium, did not have an answer for the offensive pressure put on by Castellanos and Maxi Moralez, and they were a step short getting to the ball on the eventual game-winner netted by Castellanos in the 71st minute. 

Jim Curtin’s men could not get back into the game because they were disjointed in the final third for most of the second half after putting together a few impressive attacking build-ups in the opening stanza. 

“We weren’t able to get a hold of the ball and break the lines,” Bedoya said. “Even when we did in the final third, we weren’t as sharp. I thought maybe at times we were a bit too stretched and maybe a sign of being a little bit tired or something.” 

The positives from the first half, one goal each from Fafa Picault and Kacper Przybylko, were quickly erased by the terrible second-half showing.

“Of course we have to think about the good things, but we cannot go out like in the second half today,” Przybylko said. “It was so bad. We were leading 2-1 in New York against a good team and we go out and there’s no confidence, there’s no construction for the team. It was very bad. I don’t know what happened.”

The combination of Przybylko and Sergio Santos once again failed to reap any rewards. The failure of Santos to make an impact on the game puts him in the favorite spot to be left out of the matchday squad once Andrew Wooten is eligible to play on July 9.

In midfield, the Union failed to win most of the 50-50 battles, and even in the moments in which they did, they could not string together a consistent run of passes. 

The reality is this is just one result out of a 34-game schedule, but NYCFC is the last team in a playoff position the Union will play until they visit Montreal on July 27. 

Philadelphia can win each of its next four games and some will still point to Saturday’s defeat at Yankee Stadium as the reason they will struggle to earn a home playoff game and live up to expectations at the end of the regular season.

It may seem like an unfair opinion to cast upon a squad that has had more success than expected this season, but until the Union show they won’t repeat bad patterns, the doubt will still linger. 

Saturday was the perfect opportunity to eviscerate demons after losing twice at Yankee Stadium late in the 2018 season. It would have shown the Union can win on the road against a tough opponent. 

But instead, Philadelphia is left to pick up the pieces once again, with two key games coming up against Orlando City on Wednesday and Saturday. 

“We just have to keep going,” Bedoya said. “I think we played well enough in the first half to at least get a result here and we didn’t. 

“Back-to-back at Orlando, that’s a huge six points right there and hopefully we can get back up with those six points.”

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