By Alicia Roberts

CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — A COVID crisis may have dashed the dreams of the Philadelphia Union fighting for an Eastern Conference Championship. Sunday’s game was the biggest in the franchise’s history.

However, 11 key players were sidelined by the league’s health and safety protocols.

READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Officials Join With Area Hospital Leadership To Discuss COVID Surge

“We’ll never know what we could have done tonight with a full group,” Head Coach Jim Curtin said after the loss.

Philadelphia Union players, coaches and fans are only left to wonder after COVID health protocols sidelined 11 players, including their captain and goalie. Current health guidelines force players to quarantine if they have high-risk close contact, inclusive test results or a confirmed case or other illness not related to COVID.

“You have 11 players who I feel awful for that had to sit at home completely healthy and watch the game,” Curtin said.

It forced the Union start the biggest game in club history without most of their starters.

“They did a lot better than we expected them to do,” fan Justine Iaea said.

READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Health Department To Provide A COVID-19 Update

After holding New York City FC to a scoreless starting period, a goal with less than two minutes of regulation play left ended their hope of advancing to the championship.

Still, fans who spoke to CBS3 said despite the outcome, they were glad to be here to cheer on their home team.

“I think it was great, the energy was awesome and it was really fun,” fan Liam Morris said.

The Union’s grit even attracted some very unlikely fans: a trio from Boston, who drove 6 six hours just to root against the team that beat their team last week.

“It was loud, it was rowdy. We love our Revolution up there, but there is really a special passion we saw down here,” Braeden Cheverie, who came to cheer against New York, said.

MORE NEWS: Dump Truck, 3 Other Vehicles Involved In Chester County Crash On Route 30

After the game, the team tweeted a thank you to their fans for their support.

Alicia Roberts