CHESTER - The trajectory of the ball off Marco Fabian's foot was the perfect distillation of the Union's afternoon Sunday.
It bent, it fluttered, its last touch was of questionable origin, and it definitely left a lot of people speechless.
Fabian scored in the 105th-plus-1 minute, a ball from a tight angle that may have glanced off a Red Bulls defender before caroming in off the post past a bewildered Red Bulls defense as the Union picked up their first playoff win in franchise history, 4-3 after extra time.
The win sends the third-seeded Union to No. 2 Atlanta Thursday night for the Eastern Conference semifinals. It was an unlikely result considering the Union trailed 2-0 after 25 minutes and 3-1 at halftime Sunday, but rallied thanks to goals by Jack Elliott and Fafa Picault in the second half in the first playoff game in Chester since 2011.
Andre Blake had a horror show of a first half. Josh Sims scored his first goal - not just with Red Bulls but as a professional - in the sixth, the 22-year-old converting a bad giveaway by Jack Elliott. Marc Rzatkowski made the interception, dished to Kaku who found the Englishman. Sims' shot beat Blake to the short side, though the Jamaican could only get a piece of it. It was a harbinger of disasters to come.
Blake was much more culpable in the 24th, rushing out to flap at a corner kick but missing by a huge margin. That left Tim Parker to, as he was falling down, redirect it on net and in. Then in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, Blake again charged out to punch a cross, but he knocked out a defender and it fell to Tom Barlow, who made no mistake, making it 3-1 at the half.
Barlow's goal cancelled out a striker by Alejandro Bedoya in the 30th, burying a feed from Haris Medunjanin, to briefly wake the Union out of their stupor.
The Union responded to the challenge in the second half, putting the game on their terms. Elliott atoned in the 52nd, when Sergio Santos struck a Medunjanin free kick off the bar and Elliott headed home the ricochet to make it 3-2.
Missed chances threatened to pile up. Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles stopped a Jamiro Monteiro header in the 33rd minute. A Brenden Aaronson shot, that he should've taken first time in the 36th, was blocked by Tim Parker (by what the 18,530 referees in attendance adjusted to be his hand). Robles again robbed Santos on a header in the 54th, and Medunjanin fired wide on a cross-field ball in the 64th.
But Fafa Picault came to the rescue in the 79th, rising above a defender to head home Santos's cross. He could've gotten the winner in the 88th had Robles not denied him at a tight angle.
That set the stage for extra time where Fabian, the big offseason signing who didn't make the starting XI in the playoff game, entered and made his mark, setting off celebrations that the Union faithful have never seen before.
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