CHESTER, PA. — Saturday night presented the Philadelphia Union with a perfect concoction for a letdown.
The last-place Colorado Rapids were in town, the Union were playing their third game in seven days and Jim Curtin’s men were riding the high of a three-game winning streak.
The letdown was ready to happen after 45 minutes as well, something the players even owned up to after their 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Colorado Rapids.
“It was not us. It was very bad,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “We need to know that we can’t play arrogant and think we can easily beat every team. If we don’t fight for every yard, we are nothing. We spoke with each other in halftime and we knew we had to stick with each other.”
“I think the first half was handled very unprofessionally by us,” Curtin said. “That’s the players, that’s the staff, that’s everybody. We just weren’t ourselves. It wasn’t what people say about fatigue or being tired. Credit to Colorado, they came out and scored the goal and maybe stunned us a little bit. I think there’s a moment where we haven’t conceded in four games, it’s a little bit of a letdown.”
Caleb Calvert scored in the 15th minute on a play no Union defender or goalkeeper Andre Blake will want to remember.
The switch began to flip in the second half after the Union adjusted to the tactics of the Rapids and discovered more confidence, something that hasn’t been done when down a goal in the past.
“Confidence is a heck of a thing,” Curtin said. “If you could bottle it up and sell it, you could make a heck of a lot of money. You see a group now that previously when we gave up a goal, we might lay down. We might panic. I don’t think we handled it perfectly, but we did push the game in the second half. Colorado had a ton of guys behind the ball, it was all centrally.”
“They closed everything in the middle and it was difficult to play,” Medunjanin said. “They fight for every ball and it was very difficult for us in the first 45 minutes. You can’t keep that for 90 minutes and we knew that and we turned around the score.”
An 11-minute span in the second half — with a cluster of events that all went the Union’s way — decided the contest. It started when Kevin Doyle hit the upright on a free kick in the 64th minute. C.J. Sapong scored on a penalty three minutes later and then Calvert was sent off for two quick yellow cards in the 69th minute.
“The guy clearly made a hand ball and we got the PK,” Sapong said. “I tried to keep it on goal and it went in. It gave us a little bit of life, we were able to come back and get the win. We stayed true to what we were capable of. We know it wasn’t our best half and we had another 45 minutes to come out and redeem ourselves. It’s a credit to everyone on the field, we came out ready to go and it went our way today.”
The exclamation point on the sequence came in the 75th minute, when Medunjanin struck a beautiful free kick into the top of the net to hand the Union a lead they would never relinquish.
“I know I can shoot from there and when I hit the ball, I knew it was going to go in,” Medunjanin said. “It was a relief. Three points. I celebrate with the whole team because the club name is Union. I think we are together. We don’t have star players. We need to fight with each other and take the three points with each other, even the bench and everybody out of the squad.”
The final result was a jump up to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, within one point of the sixth-place New York Red Bulls. A two-game road trip to Real Salt Lake and New York City FC awaits before the international break, one the team will look to take more points from while riding their incredible streak of form.
“It’s a good winning streak now, something to build on and we look forward to a difficult match at Rio Tinto,” Curtin said.