Union begins playoff quest against NYCFC

Philadelphia Union MLS Fafa Picault

The sixth-seeded Philadelphia Union (15-14-5) were all so close to grabbing their first home playoff match since 2012, but after falling to New York City FC (16-10-8) 3-1 on Sunday night, they’ll instead have to travel up I-95 again Wednesday to take on the same foes in the knockout round of the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

NYCFC locked up the third seed by capitalizing on Union mistakes and missed opportunities. An own goal and missed penalty kick all but sealed the Union’s fate, but the team is looking forward at another shot on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.  

“Emotions are high,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “The intensity gets turned up now with the playoffs on the line. This game we knew was very important. We wanted to finish third, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s part of the game. Guys get into it, emotions are high, the intensity gets ramped up.”

The Union split the season series with NYCFC. They defeated the Pigeons 2-0 back on August 18. They know what they’re capable of as a team if they play their best. In their last win, Cory Burke and Ilsinho each found the back of the net while goalie Andre Blake registered a clean-sheet with three saves.

“Big picture-wise, perspective-wise, it’s still a strong season for us to make the playoffs,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We know what the task is … it will be difficult, but again we’ve stepped up in tough moments before.”

NYCFC is led by veteran forward David Villa who ranked 10th in the MLS in goals scored this season with 14. Midfielder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was second on the team in scoring with 11 and will also pose problems for the Union defense.

The Union, however, are led by midfielder Fafa Picault (10 goals) and forward Cory Burke (10 goals) on offense and will look to lean on them Wednesday. “You just try to regroup,” Picault said after Sunday’s loss. “Small errors, but things that we need to fix quickly and get ready for next week.”

Wednesday’s match will air at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.