Andre Blake made a vital save on the hour that helped Philadelphia remain in the match. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis Editor

For a sport in which games last from 90 to 100 minutes, depending on stoppage time, a soccer game can be defined by moments.

New York City FC’s distressing 3-1 loss at the Philadelphia Union in the MLS Eastern Conference final was defined by two plays within five minutes of one another midway through the second half at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa. on Sunday night.

“Two moments. I think there were two huge moments,” NYCFC interim head coach Nick Cushing said.

One was Union goalkeeper Andre Blake’s diving save on Alex Callens’ shot in the 60th minute, three minutes after Maxi Moralez had given the visitors the lead.

Cushing called the stop an “incredible save.”

If NYCFC scores then, it would have had great momentum over the final half hour.

Then came Julian Carranza’s 65th-minute goal off a quickly taken free kick in which NYCFC was caught napping and wasn’t position properly. Philly equalized and chaos reigned and consumed City, which conceded three goals over an 11-minute span.

“We just lose our concentration, and they get in and then we just don’t manage that next two, three, four minutes well enough,” Cushing added. “We know what’s like in Philadelphia if the crowd gets on and they get you in that moment. The game goes from 1-1 to 2-1 really quickly.”

And then 3-1 off a Cory Burke score in the 76th minute.

It took a while for the Cityzens to recover but when they did, the writing was on the wall. The team wasn’t going to fly to Los Angeles to try to defend its title.

Cushing said he hadn’t given up on the team when it was tied.

“We’ve been in those moments before,” he said. “We conceded at New England and went on to win last year. We conceded that at Philly [last year and won]. We were under pressure at Montreal [last week]. We’ve been in those moments where the games have 1-1 and we’ve managed to win them. So I didn’t feel like the game was lost.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at