Union Confident at Season's Midway Mark
The halfway point has officially arrived for the expansion Philadelphia Union.
A 1-1 tie against the New England Revolution before a raucous crowd of 18,137 Saturday at PPL Park left the Union at 4-8-3, giving them 15 points in as many matches.
While the point total leaves Philadelphia looking at an uphill climb if they hope to enter the playoff picture, there's no doubt the club has made tremendous strides in their inaugural season.
“I think we have improved a lot as a club since the beginning,” said rookie forward Danny Mwanga, the Union’s No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. “We have had ups and downs, but we have gotten better. There are some things I wish we could have done better. I think we have grown together.”
The season began way back on March 25 when the Union dropped their first match in Seattle 2-0. Then came the stirring 3-2 win over D.C. United on April 10 at Lincoln Financial Field, the first-ever victory for Philadelphia.
From there, the club has continued to display a work ethic arguably unmatched by any club in the league.
Along the way, the Union picked up their first road win May 29 at Houston – a gutsy 3-2 victory. Who can forget the 3-1 victory over Seattle June 27 in the debut of PPL Park?
The Union ousted Celtic F.C., 1-0, on July 14 followed by a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC three days later. In another friendly against mighty Manchester United on July 21, the Union played a solid all-around match before falling 1-0.
Sure, the Union have had games and moments they would like to replay. There were ties, like the July 3 match at Chivas USA and Saturday’s match against New England, which easily could have turned into wins.
“I think we’re right on the verge of stepping into the race for the playoffs,” said defender Jordan Harvey. “We’re playing well together and I don’t think guys are frustrated or anything like that. We have to stay patient, stay within ourselves and keep pushing forward. Whatever happens, happens. But I think we have a very good group here capable of playing good soccer. It’s a long season and you have to stay focused.
“I think this group is ready and excited for the second half of the season. We have played 15 games, and we probably could have a few more wins. Nothing comes easy and we have to pushing forward every game.”
At 32, Stefani Miglioranzi was the elder statesman on the Union until 35-year-old Eduardo Coudet joined the club on Monday. The veteran midfielder certainly understands the challenge of playing at a very high level for an entire season, and he likes what he has seen from this young club in 2010.
“When you see three points there and you come away with one, sure you want the other two points as well,” Miglioranzi said. “We played well at times, especially toward the end. I thought we were going to get one to win. We have a club that is very determined and will come ready to play every day. We take it one at a time. If we do that, we can make a run for the playoffs.”
The playoffs would be an amazing accomplishment for the Union. For now, the goal is to concentrate on each game.
“It’s nice to talk about the playoffs, but let’s string some wins together first,” said forward Alejandro Moreno. “Then we’ll see where we are. I think as a whole, we have done many good things this season. We’re not the same team which took the field in Seattle. We’re much, much improved. And I think we’re going to get even better.”
Where the Union will wind up in the standings in 2010 remains a mystery, but the club's improvement over the course of the season has been evident across the board.
“We’re a really confident team,” said defender Danny Califf. “I think we have the ability to get on a winning streak. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. Everyone in this locker room believes we have a very good team, one which is capable of making the playoffs.”