The Union’s 6-1 blowout of Orlando City on Sunday gave them the most home wins in their eight-year history, the second-most total wins, and a points total that tied for their third-highest.
They also finished with the exact same record they had last year: 11-14-9. But this time, instead of making the playoffs, they finished ninth. Big-spending, star-studded teams in Toronto, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago left the Union in the dust.
It’s hard to avoid putting Sunday’s season-ending win in that context.
“The East raised the bar,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We ask [players] a lot of times to bring a knife to a gun fight, and they don’t complain. … We’ve recognized it wasn’t enough.”
At least the fans got their money’s worth Sunday. Though the announced crowd of 18,595 at Talen Energy Stadium was definitely higher than the number of tickets torn, those who did show up saw the largest margin of victory in team history.
They also saw C.J. Sapong set the team’s single-season goals record with his 15th and 16th of the year.
But it all came against another team already out of the playoffs. Orlando was also playing backup goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. because starter Joe Bendik suffered a concussion in practice Saturday.
This much is certain: Any doubts about Union players’ spirits at the end of another lost campaign were put to rest within three minutes of kickoff.
That’s how long it took Ilsinho to open the scoring with his first of two goals on the day. Alejandro Bedoya teed him up for a shot from 18 yards, and the veteran Brazilian ripped in a first-touch smash.
It was the fifth goal of the year for a player who’s a great passer, but hasn’t always been a willing shooter. This time, he let fly.
“They ask every day for me to shoot,” Ilsinho said “Sometimes I think the better way for everybody is for me to pass, but today I tried to shoot.”
He got his passes in too. One came three minutes after his first goal, when he served up a cross that Fafa Picault rose high to head in.
Sapong got his first goal in the 26th minute, breaking a record held by Sébastien Le Toux since the Union’s inaugural season in 2010. Picault got his second in the 38th.
The margin allowed Union manager Jim Curtin to bring in Brian Carroll as a halftime substitute for the final game of his decorated career. Carroll was honored with a pregame ceremony that included video tributes from teammates and coaches across his 15 years in MLS.
“He deserves to go off a winner,” Curtin said.
Thank you, BC. pic.twitter.com/yIRr4xdPYD
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 22, 2017
Ilsinho tallied the Union’s fifth goal, racing on to a through ball from Haris Medunjanin in the 63rd minute and lashing a finish past a helpless Edwards.
Dom Dwyer scored Orlando’s goal in the 72nd minute, heading in a free kick by Yoshimar Yotun.
Sapong got the day’s final goal two minutes later, forcing the ball over the line as Edwards tried to save a shot from Medunjanin.