Three things happened during the Union’s stunning 2-1 comeback win at San Jose on Wednesday night that might endear them to Philadelphia sports fans who historically haven’t cared much about the team, or about soccer in general.
The first came at halftime when the Union were trailing, 1-0, and showed no proof they’d fix that.
“We came in at halftime and we all shared some words,” manager Jim Curtin told reporters after the game. His tone of voice implied they weren’t polite, and Alejandro Bedoya backed that up a few minutes later
“A lot of the guys were [angry],” said Bedoya. “We let it all out of us.”
They had already shared some words on the field: Haris Medunjanin was booked for dissent in first half stoppage time, and at one point the TV broadcast showed Bedoya yelling at teammates.
“In the first half, as a team collectively our body language was bad -- we were getting on each other, throwing our hands at each other," Curtin said. "At halftime we talked about it, and then Ale had a great response in the second half. That’s what a leader does.”
Bedoya’s response was the equalizing goal, scored in the 70th minute. But it would not have been the equalizer if not for the second big thing that happened.
Just over two minutes into the second half, referee Baldomero Toledo overturned what would have been the Earthquakes’ second goal of the night. Magnus Eriksson put the ball in the net 45 minutes after the opening whistle, but the video replay booth spotted that Danny Hoesen was offside.
The third thing was the most dramatic. In the 83rd minute, after the Union had gone up 2-1, the replay booth told Toledo that he should take another look at a penalty kick he awarded after Aurélien Collin collided with San Jose’s Andrés Rios. It wasn’t hard contact, but it was enough for Toledo to blow his whistle at first. Upon reviewing the play, he took the call back.
“I believed I saw Collin make strong contact with Rios’ lower body,” Toledo told a pool reporter from Pro Soccer USA after the game. "Upon review, the replay showed that the contact was incidental and did not warrant the awarding of a foul.”
Curtin wasn’t going to question the call.
“The intention of VAR is to get plays right [and] for the most part, I think it does" he said. "No question, certainly a bunch went against San Jose tonight.”
So that’s a fiery halftime speech in the locker room and two bailouts from referees. What could be more appealing to a Philadelphia sports fan?
The Union now have 16 wins this season, a new team record.