Union's struggles against Montreal Impact a measure of difficult season

MLS Impact Union Soccer
Blerim Dzemaili (center) scored two goals in the Montreal Impact’s 3-0 win over the Union at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester on Saturday. He also scored the winning goal in the Impact’s win over the Union in Montreal earlier this year.

When the obituary is written on the Union’s season in a few months, it’s entirely possible that the Montreal Impact will be cited as the cause of death.

It’s not just that the Union were winless against the Impact in three games this year. It’s the manner of the results.

In April, the Union blew a 3-0 lead in a 3-3 tie at home that felt like a loss in every other way.

In mid-July, the Union lost 2-1, after having a 1-1 tie at halftime, and despite a 10-9 advantage in recorded shots.

And Saturday night, the Union lost 3-0 at home, with all three Impact goals coming in the game’s last 21 minutes.

It’s also that the Union and Impact have been neck-and-neck in the standings for much of the year, jockeying among the seven teams in pursuit of the Eastern Conference’s last two playoff berths.

That makes the results even more glaring.

“This was big, to finish off the season against them with a victory,” Impact captain Patrice Bernier said. “I can’t say we ‘figured out’ something. … It wasn’t an easy game. The 3-0 result doesn’t reflect that the game was tight for quite some time.”

Indeed, all three contests could have gone the other way, even the latest. Had the Union’s Giliano Wijnaldum scored instead of hitting the post in the 66th minute, before Montreal’s goal onslaught began, who knows how the game would have turned out.

But reality is what it is.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Union goalkeeper John McCarthy said. “This was a big one, especially an Eastern Conference game. These were points dropped that we really needed.”

Haris Medunjanin was even more blunt.

“This was an opportunity to be closer to the playoffs, and we gave it away, especially at home,” he said.

Now the Union are set to play five of their next seven games on the road. They’re 1-7-3 away from Chester’s Talen Energy Stadium this season, and the places they’re headed to aren’t likely to produce better results.

The Union visit San Jose, Toronto, Minnesota, the New York Red Bulls, and Atlanta between now and the end of September, with home games against Chicago and Atlanta sandwiched in between. All of those teams, bar Minnesota, are currently in playoff places in their respective conference standings. Toronto and Chicago are two of the top three teams not just in the East, but all of Major League Soccer.

“We weren’t good enough in what was a big game, and now we have to chase,” Curtin said. “We no longer really control our own destiny — we’re going to need help and we’re going to need to do some things on the road that we haven’t done this year. Are we capable of that? Yes, but did we just make it difficult on ourselves? Absolutely.”

If that help doesn’t come, Saturday’s game could well go down as the one that ultimately sunk the Union’s season.