Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Shorthanded Union’s playoff fight ends in heartbreak with a 2-1 loss to New York City FC

Talles Magno, whom New York signed for $8 million in mid-May, scored the winner in the 87th minute to silence Subaru Park and end the Union's season.

Matt Freese and other Union players sat collapsed on the field after the final whistle.
Matt Freese and other Union players sat collapsed on the field after the final whistle.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Sometimes the upset doesn’t happen.

Missing 11 players due to Major League Soccer’s health and safety protocols, the Union put up a valiant fight in Sunday’s Eastern Conference final, raucously supported by a sellout crowd of 19,487 — the largest in Subaru Park history

Talles Magno, whom New York signed for $8 million in mid-May, scored the winner in the 87th minute after the teams traded goals in a frenzied stretch just past the hour mark.

“Our players played with an intensity that I think made the fans proud on the night,” Union manager Jim Curtin said, and the ovation his team received at the final whistle proved him right. “Every player that stepped on the field gave everything. It still always hurts when your season comes to an end.”

Here’s a look back at some of the Union players who did their best to beat the odds.

Aurélien Collin

The biggest question the Union faced was at centerback. Collin took the field as a starter on Sunday having played just one minute of official game play this year, and before then none since Sept. 26, 2019.

From the moment he led the pre-kickoff huddle, the 35-year-old Frenchman was outstanding. He had five clearances, three duels won, two interceptions, two recoveries, and nearly inch-perfect positioning from the first minute to the last.

Some observers didn’t expect him to last the whole game, but it never looked like he was going to run out of gas.

“He’s a guy that has been amazing for this club,” Curtin said. “He’s been a leader for our young guys, he speaks five languages, he’s been a rock in the locker room, a coach in the locker room. To give a 90-minute performance like that just speaks to the professional that he is.”

» READ MORE: A rare MLS Cup winner on the Union’s roster, Aurélien Collin has been a steadying force at a tumultuous time

Nathan Harriel

While Collin and fellow starting centerback Stuart Findlay faced a lot of pressure, they at least did so as veterans. Harriel did so as a 20-year-old rookie with just six pro games under his belt, and he played at left back instead of his traditional place at right back.

None of it fazed him. Harriel won seven duels, made three interceptions and six recoveries, and completed 14 of 20 passes, then nearly gave the Union an 87th-minute goal with a header that flew just over the crossbar. But like the game as a whole, the miracle was not to be.

Jack McGlynn

For yet another game, no one would have had any idea that McGlynn was an 18-year-old rookie if watching him for the first time. He recorded 48 touches, six duels won, three tackles, two recoveries, and 23-of-34 passing before being replaced by Jesús Bueno in the 75th minute.

And here’s something to file away for next year: McGlynn hit a fine swerving free kick in the 12th minute that Sean Johnson saved. It’s always good to have depth in set piece-takers.

» READ MORE: Jack McGlynn was the Union's 18-year-old penalty shootout sensation in the conference semifinal win over Nashville

Leon Flach

Of the Union’s regulars who started, he was arguably the best. Running tirelessly from the opening whistle until he was subbed off for Paxten Aaronson in the 90th minute, Flach recorded 34 touches, six duels won, six interceptions, two tackles, one recovery and two shots, and completed 15 of 17 passes.

Kacper Przybylko

The good thing about the 4-3-2-1 formation the Union deployed is that it let them get all of their best available players into the starting lineup. The bad thing is that it left Przybylko marooned up top too much, and there wasn’t really anyone else who could stretch New York’s back line on a counter-attack.

That’s also been the case at other times this year with the formation. Dániel Gazdag can do some of that stretching, but not enough. Curtin understandably waited as long as he could to pull any of his veterans off the field for Aaronson or Anthony Fontana.

The gamble paid off in the 62nd minute when Gazdag hit a superb cross from the left side and Przybylko forced Alex Callens into an own goal. But it backfired two minutes later when New York pulled apart the Union’s defense and Maxi Moralez shot past a scrambling Matt Freese.

» READ MORE: Eleven Union players had to miss the game due to being in MLS’ health and safety protocols