Milestone motivating, but Union focus on long-term goals

Winning streak vaults Philly back into playoff picture

More celebration MTL

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

CHESTER, Pa. – Three days ago, the Philadelphia Union accomplished something they had never done before: they won their third straight league game.

But for the club’s players, such a streak is less about the milestone and more about simply clawing their way into the playoff picture.

“It’s huge,” midfielder Brian Carroll told MLSsoccer.com. “It brings you back to a place where you have a chance. It’s what we’ve been fighting for, especially recently under [interim manager John Hackworth], and now we’re in a position where we have the opportunity to keep going and take advantage of the work we’ve done recently.”

GOAL: Valdes keeps winning streak alive

When Hackworth took over for Peter Nowak on June 13, making the playoffs certainly seemed like a pipe dream for a Union team that had lost seven of their first 11 games, including a disappointing defeat to then-pointless Toronto FC in Nowak’s final league match. Things didn’t look much better after Philly started the Hackworth era by losing two of their first three league games.

Since then, however, the Union stunned the defending champion LA Galaxy on the road, got their revenge over Toronto with a 3-0 rout and, most recently, knocked off Montreal 2-1 with a stoppage-time goal to create their streak. 

“It’s good for momentum,” Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath said. “It’s something to take pride in. We’ve been building our confidence since the Rochester win in the US Open Cup [on May 29], and we’ve continued rolling and rolling.”

The Union remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, where they’ve been for a good chunk of the season. But with a 6-9-2 record and 20 points, they sit only two points out of sixth place and eight points out of the final playoff spot in the East, holding at least two games in hand on most of the teams in front of them.

None of that will matter, though, unless they keep rolling and mount a climb up the standings.

“We’re trying to push forward and trying to get back into the race,” right back Sheanon Williams said. “We’ve got to keep our heads in it and keep going strong. We have a good stretch of games coming up, so hopefully [the winning streak] continues.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.