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End of season struggles show Philadelphia Union still have work to do

NEW YORK — As the minutes ticked down on the Philadelphia Union’s season, the frustration grew louder through demonstrative hand motions. 

When the final whistle blew, Jim Curtin’s men were eliminated from the postseason following a 3-1 loss to New York City FC and the club and its fans were once again left questioning how things went downhill so fast in another massive game. 

The loss moved the Union’s record after Oct. 1 to 10-22-5,  a mark that includes four defeats in playoff matches, two of which have come in the last three years in the knockout round after a disappointing close to the regular season. 

At the start of October, there was hope, a rare thing to see in Philadelphia sports, that this would be the year the Union would at least compete in the postseason after clinching a playoff berth with an emphatic win over Minnesota United. 

“I’m sure nobody gave us a chance to make the playoffs,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “We had a chance to go for third [place] and when you look at the positives, we had a decent season, I’d say,”

But here we are again. The Union enter the offseason with zero momentum after losing their final two matches at Yankee Stadium to a New York City FC team that outclassed them over 180 minutes. 

Changes are bound to be made with new sporting director Ernst Tanner taking the reigns for his first offseason in charge. 

The biggest question is what the club will do with Curtin, who directed the club to its best regular season and ushered in a new era of Homegrown players, headlined by Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie, but the black cloud that’s hung over the franchise still remains. 

“That’s not up to me,” Curtin said. “That’s up for them to decide. I know where I stand within the team. I know where I stand with the players and that’s all that matters.” 

If you use perspective and judge Curtin by the entire season, he did a decent job by directing the team into the U.S. Open Cup final and the postseason, but the results weren’t good enough. 

“I still could not be more proud of the season that we had,” Curtin said. “A lot of young players showed a lot of growth. A game like tonight is an experience that will only make them better.” 

Oct 31, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York City midfielder Ismael Tajouri (29) plays the ball against Philadelphia Union defender Warren Creavalle (2) in front of defender Ray Gaddis (28) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Now the onus falls on Tanner, who has a vast number of connections around the globe, to reconfigure a team that has promise, but also notable holes that have to be filled in order to compete with the best in Major League Soccer. 

Whether Tanner receives the proper resources he needs from ownership is another looming question given the club’s lack of spending on a league-wide scale and firm commitment to developing academy players. 

What the future holds remains to be seen, but everyone is in agreement that the club must get better in every aspect to take the next step and finally capture the franchise’s first playoff victory. 

“I’m hopeful for the future,” Bedoya said. “But we have to get rid of these stupid losses.”

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