For the Union, the offseason can't come soon enough.
In their final road game of the 2015 season, the Union gave up the fastest goal in the 20-year history of MLS and things somehow got worse from there in a very ugly 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Aside from the two teams being on opposite ends of the MLS spectrum, what went so wrong so fast for Philly at Red Bull Arena? And what can they still play for heading into next Sunday's regular-season finale vs. Orlando City at PPL Park (5 p.m., TCN)? Let's take a look in this week's Inside Doop.
Three thoughts about Sunday's game
1. As much as Union head coach Jim Curtin tried to stress the importance of playing spoiler to the Red Bulls' hopes of winning the Supporters' Shield, playing for pride and playing for jobs next season, it seemed from the start that many of the players' heads weren't into it. Of course, that's probably to be expected considering they were out of playoff contention and coming off a two-week layoff. But there's no excuse for literally giving the ball away on the opening kickoff and letting New York's Mike Grella waltz down the field and scored seven seconds into the game. It's a play that will be on highlight shows for the next 20 years - and one that's just another low point in a season filled with them.
2. After the game, Curtin lamented that no one on the team "grabbed a hold of the group" following the early Grella goal to say that it was just one mistake and there was plenty of time left to rebound. But looking at the lineup, it's hard to see who that guy would be. Captain Maurice Edu, veteran Brian Carroll and even a team leader like Ray Gaddis weren't out there on the field, leaving recent acquisition Tranquillo Barnetta to the wear the captain's armband. Not to harp back on an old thought but this is again where getting rid of franchise stalwarts like Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams hurts. And the lack of on-field leadership is very likely one reason why the team completely fell apart after that first goal to give up three more before halftime.
3. While it's a game he'd quickly like to forget, Curtin does deserve some credit for his halftime substitutions as Fernando Aristeguieta and Ethan White helped the team win the second half, 1-0. Still, Aristeguieta probably could have done more damage with a couple of better touches, showing again that he's probably not worth the cost to bring back following his one-year loan. Meanwhile, the team's other marquee acquisition via loan from the last offseason, Steven Vitoria, is almost certainly finished with the Union after getting tormented in the first half, picking up a yellow card that will suspend him for the team's final game and getting yanked at halftime in favor of White. Vitoria and Aristeguieta both seemed like good pickups last year but dealt with too many injuries and, frankly, just aren't good enough for the money they'd command for permanent deals. Make sure you say goodbye to them next Sunday at PPL.
Three questions for the week ahead
1. While the Union were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention a couple of weeks ago, Sunday's opponent Orlando is still hanging on by a thread - the tiniest thread imaginable. The only way Orlando makes the playoffs is if they make up eight goals on the New England Revolution, meaning they need to blow out the Union while the Revs get blown out to New York City FC. That kind of desperation could make for a wide-open game and it will be interesting to see how the Union put together a plan against a team that will be trying to score at least five or six goals.
2. Curtin likely won't change his lineup too much as he doesn't like to rest starters even after being eliminated. But there is one spot on the field he has been tinkering with a bit, giving Andrew Wenger some more time at right back Sunday. Like everyone else on the backline, Wenger wasn't great against the Red Bulls but he did show some offensive promise from the fullback spot very late in the contest. Will Curtin give Wenger one more chance to try to prove himself at defense as he tries to figure out what to do with a player who was excellent as a winger in 2014 before completely regressing this year?
3. There are a couple of other little things the Union can play for Sunday. Cristian Maidana is currently tied with MVP frontrunner Sebastian Giovinco for the league lead in assists with 15, and no Union player has ever finished a season atop the goals or assists leaderboard. And C.J. Sapong remains one goal away from his first-ever double-digit goal season. If he scores, he'd become the fourth player in Union history to score 10 goals or more in a season, joining Le Toux, Conor Casey and Jack McInerney. Can either Maidana or Sapong finish off their seasons with a flourish?
Stat of the week
If the Union don't win Sunday, they'll finish the season with their worst record in franchise history.
Quote of the week
"I don't know exactly what to say. I'm still pretty mad at getting our ass kicked for 45 minutes today." - Sebastien Le Toux, following the Union's loss to the Red Bulls on Sunday
Player of the week
Le Toux gets the nod for salvaging a goal for the Union in the second half and for at least showing some anger with the aforementioned postgame quote.