The last time the Union made the playoffs, they backed in while swooning.
On Saturday night, the door opened again, and this time they charged right through it.
With an emphatic 5-1 win over Minnesota United at Talen Energy Stadium, the Union clinched their first postseason berth since 2016. The victory also vaulted the Union (15-12-5, 50 points) into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, giving them the inside track toward hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 2011.
"Hopefully we don't take the foot off the gas," Union midfielder and captain Alejandro Bedoya said. "If we play like we played tonight, with everybody moving off the ball really well, and just keep playing real quick, we're a dangerous team."
Cory Burke got things going in just the eighth minute. Borek Dockal played a high pass over Minnesota's back line, and Burke out-muscled Michael Boxall to get to the ball first. After Boxall hit the turf on his rear end, Burke cut hard to his right to fool Brent Kallman, then fired a powerful shot from 20 yards to the far lower corner of Bobby Shuttleworth's net.
Dockal's assist was his 16th of the year, breaking Cristian Maidana's single-season team record set in 2015.
Alejandro Bedoya doubled the lead in the 17th minute. Dockal spun a pass out of a central pocket of space to Keegan Rosenberry on the right flank, Rosenberry hit a sharp low cross, and Bedoya redirected it in.
The Union kept coming, and Minnesota's porous defense kept letting them right on through. Fafa Picault scored the night's third goal in the 23rd minute, finishing off a nifty build-up by Rosenberry and Haris Medunjanin.
Picault scored again in the 44th, curling a beautiful shot from 15 yards that left Shuttleworth and Jerome Thiesson frozen in place. It was a fine way for Picault to celebrate his second career U.S. national team call-up.
Minnesota (11-17-3, 36 points) got its goal in the 54th, from star playmaker Darwin Quintero. Ilsinho capped things off in the 79th minute with a ferocious rip from 30 yards.
"I usually have to sit up here and sometimes act like I have all the answers, but I was nervous going into this game," manager Jim Curtin said.
By the final whistle, he had reason to celebrate. The Sons of Ben supporters club sang, "If you're going to the playoffs, clap your hands," and Curtin did just that for them as he left the field.