CHESTER, Pa. -- In one stunning eight-minute stretch, Cristian Maidana and Conor Casey put the Union on their backs and turned a landslide defeat into an improbable draw.
When the smoke cleared in the second half, Casey scored a pair of goals and Maidana had three assists as the Union tied the Vancouver Whitecaps, 3-3, on Saturday night at PPL Park.
“We came out in the second half and really pushed the game,” said Casey, who has four goals in the club's last two games. “We did a great job fighting our way back in it. To let the lead slip at the end is frustrating, given how the season has gone, but it was a great reaction from our team to get back in the game.”
The Union head into the two-week World Cup break with a 3-7-6 overall record and 15 points. The Whitecaps’ record moves to 5-2-6.
Down two and showing little spark, the Union started their comeback in the 63rd minute. Moving the ball down the left side into Whitecaps territory, Maidana pushed a low left-footed cross to a streaking Casey, who surprised his defender and slipped a header between goalkeeper David Ousted and the left post to cut the Whitecaps' lead in half, 2-1.
Minutes later, the Union struck again. On a counterattack in the 68th minute, Maidana pushed the ball forward to Vincent Nogueira firing into the attacking box. Nogueira immediately put a low, bouncing cross to countryman Sebastien Le Toux for the goal to tie the game at two.
“He gave me a great ball across the box,” Le Toux said. “I just had to make sure I put it inside the goal. It was a good moment.”
But the stunning onslaught didn’t end there.
Taking possession just outside the top of the Whitecaps' box, Maurice Edu played a short pass to Maidana, who found Casey situated just a few yards away. Surprisingly open, Casey looked up and placed a shot that beat Ousted to the right side for the 3-2 Union lead.
However, the advantage wouldn’t last.
Chasing down a loose ball in the 80th minute, the Whitecaps’ Darren Mattocks outraced Amobi Okugo from midfield into the Union box. Attempting to make a play on the ball, Mattocks was contacted by Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, making an aggressive push to smother the shot.
Although MacMath got the ball, he was called for the penalty. On the ensuing penalty kick, Pedro Morales easily scored in the 81st minute, tying the game, 3-3.
“I had a good read on it and knew which way it was going,” MacMath said. “Unfortunately it took a weird bounce right in front of my arm.
“It’s very frustrating.”
After an impressive start from the Union in terms of pressure and possession, it was the Whitecaps that took the early lead. In the 18th minute and 42nd minute, both Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida scored off the counterattack, putting the Whitecaps up comfortably, 2-0.
“I feel like we’re a team that can play at such a high level,” Hackworth said. “But we let ourselves down in these little moments. To go down 2-0 at home is unacceptable, but to come back and score three-straight goals, it’s fantastic. Then to give up a goal again. It’s a roller coaster of emotion and not one you want to have, to be fair. We had that game in our grasp and weren’t able to finish it out.”