“Getting to the final four of (Concacaf Champions League) trumps the third game of the season, it just does.” -Jim Curtin
Concacaf Champions League and MLS league play continued to produce contrasting results for the Philadelphia Union as they remained winless in the regular season after a 2-0 loss to NYCFC at home Saturday night.
Jose Martinez was sent off with a red card in the 16th minute and the Union already down a goal from which the 10-men Union were never able to find a way back.
Speaking to reporters after the match, captain Alejandro Bedoya and head coach Jim Curtin both acknowledged Martinez’s hit to the face on Taty Castellanos — changed from yellow to red after video review — put the team in a hole.
“It’s early days, and you know we’re competing in Champions League too so a lot of games early on already,” Bedoya said. “But I think two losses at home is not good, especially when we’ve been pretty dominant at home the past few years. It’s a wake up call for everybody, that includes Jose who got the red card.”
The Union weren’t the only team to struggle in league play coming off Champions League matches mid-week. Columbus was held to a scoreless draw with CF Montreal, Portland lost 4-1 to FC Dallas, Atlanta lost 2-1 to New England Revolution and Toronto FC was off. Three of the five teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings after three matches are in Champions League (Columbus, Toronto, Philadelphia).
“Getting to the final four of (Concacaf Champions League) trumps the third game of the season, it just does,” Curtin said. “But the great thing and the frustrating thing about this game is the second you feel like you’re on top after a great win against Atlanta, it can humble you right away, and it will test you and challenge you right away.”
Playing 74 minutes down a man was the last thing Curtin would have wanted from a game where he was trying to conserve minutes for some of his starters ahead of Tuesday. Kacper Przybylko, Kai Wagner and Leon Flach all gave way in the starting lineup but came on in the 61st minute with the deficit still just a goal.
The second NYCFC goal from Castellanos in the 65th minute after a miscommunication between Glesnes and Andre Blake put the match out of reach. After going unbeaten during the regular season at home in 2020, the Union has now lost three straight games between the MLS playoffs and MLS season in Subaru Park. The red card was the first shown to a Union play since Wagner was sent off in April 2019.
“A night to forget, obviously, and we get a quick turnaround, thankfully on Tuesday night a big game,” Bedoya said. “And our focus has to be for that.”
The Union of course will be without Martinez for CCL for a yellow card accumulation suspension (two cards in the first three games), but it sounds like Flach will be the player called on to fill the No. 6 role. That likely means Anthony Fontana starting again at the No. 10, where he struggled to find the game against NYCFC.
“We’re going to need our fans on Tuesday night, more than ever, we have to really execute at the beginning of that game, but one thing that we did accomplish tonight is we did keep some guys fairly fresh for starting that game on Tuesday at the right intensity,” Curtin said.