On paper, all signs pointed to a distant play-off dream coming to an end. With San Jose conceding just one goal in all of August, taking down the Galaxy and DC United whilst never losing to the Union on home turf it seemed as though the Union faced a mountain climb. But the Union showed up, they climbed the mountain and put a DOOP! flag at the top after Conor Casey scored two quick fire goals to seal a crucial win.
The first half was a very inconsistent affair for both teams with only one shot on target being recorded throughout the first 45 minutes. But the Union were dealt a good hand early on when Bernandez was substituted off with injury just ten minutes before the half. An already weakened Earthquakes side was now struggling to create any kind of Offensive threat.
Barnetta took the captains armband for the matchup and stepped up to the plate in heroic fashion. His build up play was close to perfect and for Union fans it was a sign of promise, a sign of what the former Schalke star is truly capable of. He has had slight teething problems in adjusting to the MLS, but there were no signs of growing pains here. A brilliant shot early on was deflected wide but it didn’t stop Barnetta from being a force all over the pitch.
However it appeared that good hand may have been all but a bluff as the Union had a penalty call rejected less than a minute later. CJ Sapong was pulled down by Bernandez’s replacement, Koval but the referee ignored the penalty calls..yet another instance of poor refereeing in the Union’s games. It was the denial of a goal scoring opportunity and should have been treated as such.
The teams entered the half frustrated and tied at 0-0. Former Union player Shea Salinas started strongly for San Jose, flicking a cross down to the teams second top scorer Amarikwa whose shot barely touched the outside of the post.
Moments later the Union had yet another denied penalty call…noticing a pattern here? Nogueira was brought down by goalkeeper David Bingham in what was a reckless move, but again the Referee appeared to be waving at his mother in the crowd or playing Plants Vs Zombies as opposed to focusing on the game.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Fabinho (who had had a brilliant game up to this point contributing to all aspects of play ) appeared to handball a cross in the box, landing the Earthquakes with a penalty in a cruel twist of fate. The home side obviously sent captain and top-scorer Chris Wondolowski up to the spot. Penalty specialist McCarthy was fooled by Wondolowski, sending the Quakes into a 1-0 lead.
The Union scrambled and decided to take off Le Toux and replace him with Conor Casey. It was a moved that turned the tides for the Union as just minutes later, Casey was able to fire a header past Bingham to tie the game, giving the Union a glimmer of hope.
After the tying goal, the tempo sky rocketed. Amarikwa came close with a short grazing the cross bar as both teams sensed the desperation from the other. There were more through balls than there were fans in the stadium as teams tried everything they could to find an upper hand.
Captain Barnetta looped in a free kick late on to once again find the head of Casey..who once again beat Bingham. The entire crowd stood silent as the Union players emphatically cheered. Somehow..they had done it again. A game where the chance of a victory is slim, they pull out all the stops and with it a huge upset. Perhaps it’s the spotlight reflecting off of Casey’s head that blinded the defenders or perhaps it was just the right call at the right time..but the Union would not relinquish the lead and go on to win the game.
Play-off chances may be slim, but somehow the Union are still there, kicking and screaming every step of the way, refusing to go down without a fight. That’s what makes this team special. Sure the season has been disappointing for fans, but when the team play with heart and pull out a result like that without the likes of Maidana or Blake..it’s a testament to what makes the Union so unique. The team is built on passion..and it’s that passion that may, just may see them to an Open Cup and one final charge to salvage a disappointing MLS campaign.