Everything to play for
Don’t tell the Philadelphia Union that the final three regular season games are meaningless.
While the Union have been eliminated from the playoffs, these final 270-plus minutes still count in many ways.
“My hope is that we continue to play as well as we have in our last three and hopefully we get some results to come out way,” team manager John Hackworth said. “We have three extremely tough teams coming up, two of which are away games. It’s going to be a tough stretch but our hope is to continue our progress and build toward the future.”
The first test will come Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo (13-8-11) at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Philadelphia (10-15-6) defeated Houston 3-1 the last time out at PPL Park. The Union are 3-0-1 in their last four matches overall.
And the Dynamo are sitting in the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Columbus Crew.
So this match is crucial for a number of reasons.
“The first thing on my mind is finishing this season the right way,” Union midfielder Danny Cruz said. “Secondly, we need to give these fans what they deserve. Third, we’re playing for our jobs and that’s the bottom line. None of us are taking these last three games lightly. We need to stay focused, do what we’ve done the last few weeks and get momentum going into preseason next year.”
Cruz is questionable with an Achilles injury. Midfielder Freddy Adu could return from a quad strain while left back Gabriel Farfan is questionable. Farfan was seen with a cast on his right ankle following Wednesday’s training session.
“The only injury update we have is that Gabe [Farfan’s] ankle is not doing as well as we thought,” Hackworth said. “We rested him and we’ll try to evaluate and see if he can be ready for Saturday.”
Read: Latest MLS injury report
Both Houston and Philadelphia are coming off two-week breaks, making this match even more interesting. Both clubs will be rested and ready to play.
“I think having time for Brad Davis to heal up a little bit and to have him play on Saturday, it will be a big challenge for us,” Hackworth said. “It’s a really important year for Houston and they need this in a big way. So not only are we playing a good team but we’re playing a super motivated team at home. That will be a challenge for us but we feel pretty good about how we’re playing, too.”
Hackworth will have plenty of difficult decisions to make after the season. For the current players, beginning with the Dynamo, these final three matches could be a barometer to which players are here next season.
“At the end of the year, the analysis of our current roster is something we’ll look at very carefully,” Hackworth said. “Guys who have performed well for us but might not be the answer down the road, all of those things come into play in the next three games. It’s our last look at the guys on our current roster and you can’t overstate that. There are some tough decisions we have to make in that locker room.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org