CHESTER, Pa. – For Peter Nowak, the curse has been broken.
Those were the words of the relieved Philadelphia Union manager after his team won their first game in two months, beating the first-place Columbus Crew, 1-0, on Saturday night at PPL Park.
“It was a tough two months without a win,” Nowak said in the postgame press conference. “I think we broke the curse. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
More than anything else, it seemed, there was an overriding feeling of relief among the Union coaches and players following Saturday’s result.
Before their victory over Columbus, the Union had gone eight straight games without a victory, the longest winless skid in franchise history. And it was certainly wearing on them.
“We felt it was a long time coming,” said Union center back Danny Califf. “Certainly we’ve played well enough to win in the course of eight weeks. We felt a bit snakebitten for a while, and to finally get that win – in probably one of the biggest games of club history – is a big relief.”
During their seemingly interminable winless stretch, the Union played well at times. They earned ties in five of the eight games, and in their last two contests before Saturday’s win, they enjoyed an impressive three-goal comeback vs. New England and a shutout against Portland.
Still, not getting three points was extremely frustrating and even more detrimental to their playoff quest.
“We’ve been working so hard,” midfielder Freddy Adu said. “We’ve been unlucky and we made some mistakes. But we kept our head down, kept working hard and today we were rewarded. But I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, since we won, we’re OK.’ We’re going to keep working harder and harder because we want to keep winning.”
Now, with the winless stretch in their rearview mirror, the revitalized Union (9-7-12, 39 points) sit just two points out of first place in the Eastern Conference and one point behind Sporting Kansas City, who they play Friday night at Livestrong Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
And when they face KC, they hope they’ll be more like the team that pulled out a huge win against a strong Columbus squad than the one that struggled to get a result in the eight weeks before that.
“Everyone knew it was a big game and I think everyone responded like it was a big game,” Califf said of the win over the Crew. “We came out and I think dominated from minute 1 to minute 90. … We’ll be able to look back on this game in the postseason, or at the end of the season as we fight for our place in the playoffs, and I think gather strength from this game.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.