The frustration of the Union’s 1-1 tie with FC Cincinnati could certainly be symbolized by Dániel Gazdag’s two shots late in the second half that went straight into the hands of Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano, instead of anywhere past him.

But a potentially more important moment came in between those plays.

In the 76th minute, Leon Flach picked the ball off Cincinnati’s $13 million (though rarely playing like it) striker Brenner. The loose ball rolled to José Andrés Martínez, who played a quick, short pass to Gazdag. The Union’s star playmaker dropped a nifty cutback on Haris Medunjanin, raced away, pulled another cutback on Obinna Nwobodo, then dropped a dime of a pass over Ian Murphy for Cory Burke to race on to.

Burke got there, cut left on Murphy, and had a lane to shoot through between Murphy and Nick Hagglund. But instead of taking an instinctive quick strike, he took an extra touch and passed to Julián Carranza, who was promptly double-teamed. That necessitated a pass back to Leon Flach, who was also swarmed, and gave the ball back to Carranza — who by now had five Cincinnati players converging on him.

Remarkably, Carranza spun and got a shot off between two of the defenders. But it was understandably lightweight, and easily saved by Celentano.

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“That seemed like it took forever, even though it was only a few seconds,” the Union’s longtime play-by-play broadcaster JP Dellacamera said on TV.

“It did take forever, and each second that it took, Cincinnati got one more player back and made it more difficult,” color analyst Danny Higginbotham responded. “In those situations, when you get those opportunities, you’ve got to try to take them as quickly as possible.”

If only Burke had played that moment with the same directness.

Of course, had Burke shot when he could have, it wasn’t guaranteed to go in. But throughout his 27 second-half minutes, the veteran Jamaican looked like a striker lacking something on the mental side. And on a night when the Union were missing a lot of their usual attacking substitutes, that stood out even more.

He knew it, too.

“Watching the game from on the bench, I told myself that once I’d get in there and I get a chance, once I could shoot, I’m going to shoot when it was a good shot,” Burke told The Inquirer after the game. “Unfortunately, I didn’t. But I try to bring my players in the buildup when I get the ball to score a goal, which I think I created two good opportunities for Daniel.”

Curtin also knew it. It’s his tradition to not criticize players directly in his postgame news conferences, and he continued it Saturday night. But there were questions about Burke specifically, and his answers made the needed point.

“When strikers are in a confident flow and are feeling things, they think less, almost,” Curtin said. “It’s almost, as soon as they get the ball, it’s, ‘I’m going to shoot, I’m going to hit the target.’ And right now, maybe we’re overthinking — maybe passing when we should shoot, shooting when we should maybe make a pass, dribbling when it should be a one-touch play.”

Burke has let some frustrations out this year on his Instagram account, leading outsiders to wonder if something else was up.

He indicated that there is not. Just the ups and downs of a player who’s fighting for playing time and knows his place on the depth chart.

“I know it’s going to be tough for me, but I just have to stay focused,” he said. “And when my name is called upon, I have to be ready to go out there and give everything for the club, everything for the Philadelphia Union and also for the people of Philadelphia … Whenever I get a chance to play, I always want to [bring] energy to try and win games.”

The words are the right ones. Now the actions have to be too, and preferably soon.

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