Fight to the finish

Union feel defeating D.C. can lead to big things going forward

Union-United Open Cup

Photo Credit: 
D.C. United
All it takes is one.
 
If the Philadelphia Union can come up with one elusive victory, the players believe it can catapult them in a positive way for the rest of the season.
 
The Union (7-13-6) will have that chance Thursday night against their I-95 rival D.C. United (13-10-5) at PPL Park.
 
Philadelphia hasn’t recorded three points in a single match since a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution on July 29. Ironically, that was the last time a Union forward scored a goal when Jack McInerney accomplished the feat.
 
Since that match, the Union have gone 0-3-4 with the latest result being a 1-1 draw last Saturday at Toronto FC.
 
The Union have managed just 26 goals in 26 matches, second-fewest in the league behind only Chivas USA with 21.
 
So all it takes is one goal to start, which ultimately could result in one win.
 
“It’s huge,” midfielder Danny Cruz said. “I think it’s a lot like a forward – one win, one goal and then you see they come and they come and they come. It’s going to be huge on Thursday, no doubt about it. This group’s ready and everyone has done a good job preparing this week as well as the coaching staff.”
 
In most of their recent games, the Union have controlled possession. But for one reason or another, three points have eluded them.
 
The immediate task is to alter that Thursday night against D.C. United, who are hanging on to the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
“It’s certainly not possession, that’s for sure,” Cruz said of how the Union can end their winless streak. “If you look at every game, I can honestly say … every game at least since I’ve been here, been a part of, I feel we’ve out-possessed the team. I think Toronto in the first half was the first time since I’ve been here we got outplayed in the first half. Even at the end, chances created, shots were created.
 
“The chances are there. The possession is there. The football is being played well. I know time and time again, and we continue to say it, but we just need to finish the year strong and do everything we can to get maximum points.”
 
It won’t be easy, especially in a fierce rivalry match such as this one.
 
“It’s certainly a rivalry game,” said Cruz, who previously played for D.C. United before being traded to the Union for Lionard Pajoy in June. “It’s something we always look forward to and I don’t expect it to be anything but that. It’s going to be a physical game with a lot of emotions running around. It’s good to be at home and have our fans behind us. It’s always important.”
 
It’s always important to play well at home.
 
For the young Union side, that’s vital in such an intense rivalry match. As important as earning three points is to the Union, it’s also nice to know you’ve knocked D.C. United down a peg – and possibly out of playoff contention.
 
“Nothing could be sweeter,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I think we use that to motivate. Honestly, if I have to motivate anyone in that locker room, something’s wrong. This is a rivalry game. We’ve already had all this tension going back and forth and we’ve already had three games this year where the cards were flying and the tackles were flying. The emotions are running high. I really hope I don’t have to do too much tomorrow. But I guarantee I’ll use everything I have to throw at them and certainly try to play the last game of the series and season at home.”
 
The last time the Union fans celebrated a win at home was July 29 against the Revolution. If you’re counting, that’s nearly two months.
 
All it takes is one win and momentum can turn the other way.
 
“Playing here at home, though, it has to be a different story,” Hackworth said. “We have to protect this crowd and to treat it very special and our fans deserve it. We’ve definitely been on the short end of the stick the last couple of times we’ve been here and that’s unacceptable, too. We’re going to try to change that tomorrow night.”