Union lose but probably will back into the playoffs

For a game with such importance, there was little buzz in the stands and even less on the field, at least from the Union's standpoint.

Having a chance, as it turns out, to clinch a Major League Soccer League playoff berth on their own with a win or a tie, the Union suffered a 2-0 loss Sunday to Orlando City before an announced crowd of 18,007 at Talen Energy Stadium.

"We were tentative and didn't give the fans enough to get excited about," Union coach Jim Curtin said.

Instead, the Union have the last-place Chicago Fire to thank for virtually clinching the second playoff berth in the team's seven-year history. Chicago beat New England, 2-1, on Sunday.

With one game left, the Union (11-13-9, 42 points) hold the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff position. New England is 10-14-9 for 39 points.

The first tiebreaker is wins, and even if New England wins next week against Montreal and the Union lose to the New York Red Bulls, the two teams would be tied in that department. That brings the second tiebreaker, which is goal differential. The Union leads New England by 12.

Yet at this point, the Union will take backing into the postseason over the alternative. At the end of his news conference, Curtin was asked what positives he could take from the game.

"That it is over," he said.

There was relief to know the playoff chase is virtually over.

"Marginally, it is nice to know we are in, but at the same time, I don't think anybody draws it up getting in with a 2-0 loss," all-star defender Keegan Rosenberry said.

A major gaffe by Union defender Fabinho led to the game's first goal in the 59th minute.

Fabinho lost the ball to Carlos Rivas right before the midfield mark. Rivas turned on the jets and broke in on goal. Keeper Andre Blake made a sliding save, but the ball deflected off Rivas and toward the goal.

Rosenberry, in a desperate try, actually tipped the ball into the net. It was originally called an own goal, but Rivas was credited with the score since the ball was going in even without Rosenberry's assistance.

In the first half, the Union almost did surrender an own goal. Orlando midfielder Kaka sent a cross that went off Union defender Ken Tribbett and deflected off the far post right to Blake.

The Union almost tied it in the 67th minute when Orlando keeper Joe Bendik made a diving save on a Chris Pontius header from six yards out. Blake kept the Union in the game with a diving save on a shot directed to the far post by Matias Perez Garcia in the 78th minute.

In second-half stoppage time, Union midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta headed an Alejandro Bedoya cross wide.

Shortly after, Orlando, which had nothing to play for since it had been already eliminated from playoff consideration, iced it when Julio Baptiste scored on a breakaway.

The Union's best first-half scoring chance came when Fabian Herbers, after taking a pass from Barnetta, shot over the goal from 10 yards out at a slight right angle in the 30th minute.

The Union are 0-4-2 in their last six games - not the type of momentum needed for a team that will have an extended season.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard