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The Philadelphia Union looked set to head into extra time at TQL Stadium until a late winning goal for FC Cincinnati ended their campaign in heartbreaking fashion.
Yerson Mosquera’s 94th minute winning goal propelled Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati into the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals after a 1-0 triumph over the Union. FC Cincy defender Ian Murphy looked offsides on the game-winning goal, but the decision stood as Pat Noonan’s squad advanced to their first conference final.
“It’s always disappointing when [the season] comes to an end, and so abruptly too with an indecisive kind of play,” Curtin said to reporters postmatch. “VAR’s there for reason, to get things right. And I’m not sure that it worked out tonight.
“We have an iPad obviously on the bench,” he added. “Every player that saw it, every coach that saw it said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s offsides, it’s offsides. It’s coming back. [Murphy’s] offsides. That’s also why we didn’t have a change up immediately because it was so clear to everybody that was telling me. I think the word that we got from the center referee was that they did review it and it was deemed onside.”
Brandon Vazquez was denied an early opener by Andre Blake as the Jamaica goalkeeper punched away the veteran forward’s right-footed shot. Aaron Boupendza also tested his luck in the 34th minute from long-range, but Blake was up to the task to keep FC Cincinnati at bay.
The Union tried to hit FC Cincy on the counter attack, but were held in check for most of the match. Jose Martinez’s long-range shot was gathered by Roman Celentano while Julian Carranza was also repelled by the U.S. men’s national team shot-stopper.
Martinez was forced out of the match after a late challenge from Boupendza, forcing Jim Curtin to bring Jesus Bueno in the match. The Venezuelan was helped off the field by two Union trainers, looking in agonizing pain.
FC Cincy’s last-gasp free kick in stoppage time would have a major say in the scoreline. Alvaro Barreal’s long-range cross was headed back across goal by Murphy, allowing a wide-open Mosquera to take one touch and stroke home into the bottom-left corner.
Despite a late push from the Union to force extra time, FC Cincy held on to advance into next week’s East Final.
It marked a painful end to the season for the Union, who will now likely see several key players depart this winter. Kai Wagner and Alejandro Bedoya have previously been linked with exits at the conclusion of the year while several others could be on the move.
Despite another playoff exit without any silverware, Curtin remains proud of his team for their consistent improvement as a title-challenger each of the past six seasons.
“That’s what pro sports are. It only ends perfect for one team, and there’s 29 teams in our league, so it’s really difficult to win and then get over that final hump,” said Curtin. “So look, our group punches above their weight. We give everything, my players absolutely give everything for the badge, give everything for the fans. And yeah, we’re underdogs in the majority of our big games.
“I know when we’re favorites, I know when we’re underdogs and I can’t ever be upset with how my players performed,” he added. “I think our record over the last five, six years speaks for itself, and our players give me everything. So I can’t be mad at them. I sleep easy at night knowing that we do the absolute best we possibly can with what we have.”