Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin lamented the ‘little things’ that cost his side in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League semi-final against Club America.
The Union went down 2-0 at the Azteca Stadium on Thursday night, though it was only Emanuel Aguilera’s 80th-minute penalty that really seems to have put the MLS side up against it.
Having given his side the lead in the 17th minute, Paraguayan midfielder Richard Sanchez was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by Jose Martinez, but only after a lengthy VAR check as referee Walter Lopez initially waved play on.
Aguilera, of course, made no mistake with the spot-kick but after the match, Curtin questioned whether there was a “clear and obvious” reason for VAR to overturn Lopez’s original decision. The fact the Union were denied a penalty of their own when Cory Burke was clattered in the box late in the match only added to Curtin’s sense of frustration on the night.
“Is it a penalty? He doesn’t call it on the field,” said Curtin (via MLSsoccer.com). “There needs to be something to really [show] it’s clear and obvious to overturn it, I don’t know if there is.
“You had some calls, big calls, that went against us. I think the Cory one is a penalty, [Canadian referee] Drew Fischer’s up there [in the VAR booth] and decided that it wasn’t worth looking at, I guess. The elbow to Olivier’s face where he literally loses his tooth on the field was interesting as well. So the little things went against us.”
But Curtin still believes his players acquitted themselves well at one of the toughest venues in North America, with the Union missing a couple of good chances to level the scores prior to going 2-0 down and stopping America finding their rhythm with a rugged defensive performance.
“I thought that overall, we made it uncomfortable for them,” Curtin added. “Obviously, conceding in the first half was disappointing, but at the same time I thought at 1-0 we were fairly comfortable, came into the game pretty good.
“Keeping it at 1-0 would have been the key, that would have been almost a perfect result. But now we have a little more work to do at home.”
The Union now face a wait between now and the return leg, which takes place on September 15th. In the meantime, the Supporters Shield holders have three MLS home games against NYCFC, CF Montreal and New England Revolution, with a trip to DC United in between.