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View Count: 112 |  Publish Date: July 05, 2013
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Two late-game collapses could haunt Union
Marc Narducci, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013, 3:01 AM
Without knowing the details, Union fans would have taken consecutive draws against teams with the first and second most points in Major League Soccer in a heartbeat.
Maybe its a sign of progress, or more of frustration, but the Union are not claiming moral victories after 2-2 draws with visiting FC Dallas on Saturday and at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
Thats because the Union were up a man and a goal in both games entering lengthy stoppage times. And the Union coughed up a goal in both games.
In the FC Dallas game, the goal came in the 97th minute. On Wednesday, RSL struck in the 97th minute, scoring on a penalty kick following a hand ball by Union defender Ray Gaddis. More coverageMore soccer coverage from The Goalkeeper
It was clearly a hand ball, although Union team manager John Hackworth felt there was a reason for the violation.
I thought it was a foul, Hackworth told reporters. Ray got pushed in the back, which is clearly why he was going forward and his arms were flailing.
Then Hackworth laid out a more reasonable explanation.
I cant do anything about that, he said about the so-called no-call. Its our responsibility to do better.
Things are tight in the standings, and now the Union have earned two points when six were in their grasp these last two games.
Plus, the Union got a break against FC Dallas when defender Sheanon Williams kicked a ball off the line in stoppage time that replays showed should have been a Dallas goal.
So again, lets not make officiating the big thing here. Every week there seems to be complaining about the officials from both sides. That is likely to continue.
Regardless of the officials, teams with leads in stoppage time shouldnt blow them.
And the Union cant use the excuse that they were missing leading scorer Jack McInerney and midfielder Keon Daniel, who were preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. RSL was missing four players for the same reason, including standout keeper Nick Rimando.
RSL entered Thursday with 34 points, the most in MLS, and Dallas had 30, which is tied for second. They are both serious contenders for the MLS Cup.
So what does that say about the Union?
No question, this is a team not only capable of earning one of the five Eastern Conference playoff spots, but one that could make a postseason run.
Then again, that could be said about virtually any of the 10 teams that qualify for the playoffs. Still, reaching the postseason is no sure thing.
Looking at things realistically, there are likely eight teams contending for the five Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Union (7-5-6) entered Thursday tied for third, but just two points out of first and only seven points ahead of eighth-place Columbus.
Hackworth said before this two-game road trip - Wednesday against RSL and continuing Saturday in Houston - that earning four points would be a realistic goal, although he hoped for six. If that is the case, then Saturday against Houston (which has 23 points and owns a game in hand over the Union) is a must-win situation.
After Saturday, the Union have 15 games left. Four of the next five after Saturday will be at PPL Park, where the Union are 4-2-3.
At this point the Union are in decent shape, but would have much more breathing room if they didnt suffer late-game collapses that they hope wont cost them when the Eastern Conference playoff teams are determined.
Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.
Marc NarducciInquirer Staff Writer #post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-reddit {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 60px !important;height: 20px !important;margin-right:8px;}#post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-email {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 71px !important;height: 28px !important;}0comments

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