All Union fans know what happened in the 2022 MLS Cup. It’s understandable to want to forget about it. However, it is okay to talk about what went down and look forward to the future for the Philadelphia Union.
First things first, congratulations to LAFC. A deserved champion of MLS. The atmosphere and the experience were top-class.
As someone who made the trip to LA, do not let the few LAFC fans who threw bottles ruin it for everyone. Most LAFC fans were friendly and respectful before, during, and after the game. Many even gave handshakes and high-fives as Union fans exited the stadium.
The Union and LAFC put on a show. Many are claiming it to be the best game in MLS history. As well as by far the best MLS Cup in the league’s history.
Now, let’s talk about the hard part.
They Were So Close…
The Union was about 1 minute from being MLS Cup champions. Then, Gareth Bale finally made his long-awaited presence felt. Bale’s time with LAFC may have been tumultuous up to that point. However, the European legend showed up when it mattered the most.
Bale’s 128th-minute goal thrusted a 10-manned LAFC to glory. It was a goal that no other MLS player likely makes. It may have just looked like a simple header but go and watch it again. The run to the open space, the jump to beat 6’6 Jack Elliott, and to get the power on the ball that he did. It was a goal from someone who has done it on the world’s biggest stages before.
The goal may have just tied it 3-3 but it was over for the Union at that moment.
The Union will forever be remembered as being on the wrong side of the greatest game in MLS history, but this one hurts. The sting won’t be going away anytime soon.
What’s Next for the Union?
Despite the heartbreak, the show must go on. The focus now shifts to the offseason. Where the Union may lose many key pieces.
First, Paxten Aaronson and Kai Wagner played their final game in a Union uniform. Paxten Aaronson’s transfer was revealed last week. While it is not official yet, he is expected to be moved to Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.
As for Kai Wagner, he proved in the MLS Cup he is just a class above MLS. The Union was lucky to hold onto him for this long. He will rightfully be moved to Europe this winter.
There are two other players who may also be on their way out. Jose “El Brujo” Martinez and Oliveir Mbaizo. El Brujo has been the best defensive midfielder in MLS for 2 seasons now. He is due to a move.
As for Mbaizo, after losing his spot to Nathan Harriel early in the season, he worked better and resurged his career. He is now off to the World Cup with Cameroon. He is sure to draw interest.
There are some smaller question marks. Leon Flach and Jack McGlynn have some interest but nothing concrete. Also, Jim Curtin has been rumored to move to Europe but let’s just hope his work with the Union isn’t done yet.
The Core Still Remains
While the Union will certainly lose massive talent, the core still remains. Uhre, Carranza, and Dazgag should still be there to anchor the attack. Jacob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, and Andre Blake are still there to hold the defense down. The Union still has more than enough to compete.
Quinn Sullivan and other academy products should fill in the spaces that are going to be created. Maybe Ernst Tanner will dip into the wallet a bit. The Union made the MLS Cup with the second-lowest payroll. Imagine if they actually make a few splashes in the transfer market.
Time to Look Forward
The Union’s loss in the MLS Cup was heartbreaking. It will hurt for a long time. All we can do now and see how they reload and make another run at it. Next season they will be returning to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Until then, mourn the Union loss and prepare yourself to get back to it in a few months!
Featured Image: Stephen Speer