It's a wait and see weekend for Union who continue to gear up for final regular season run

Idle Union train through bye week for intense final five matches

PPL Park panorama

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

Speaking frankly, the situation is not ideal right now.

The Union, now looking at the playoff picture from the outside, is currently struggling through a five-game winless streak and attempting to fix an offense that's scored just one goal in the last 465 minutes of play.

If that wasn't enough, the teams surrounding Philadelphia in the standings will play catch-up this weekend while the Union sit through a bye week and hope for the ideal results.

"Bye Weeks"

Sometimes these are good things.

During his 14-year tenure, former Eagles coach Andy Reid went 13-1 in games played after a bye week. The time off lets you step back, correct problems, and reflect on recent results.

And sometimes bye weeks are a bad thing. In this case, the Union could be losing ground while watching other teams battle it out on Saturday. Maybe the sense of urgency increases if certain results go the way of other clubs.

"We have no control over it," Union manager John Hackworth told reporters following training this week. "When we looked at the whole year and we planned our whole season we built this (bye week) into our periodization plan. So we have been expecting it and planning for it. You would love to have this break and feel really good about yourself and a lot of positive things being talked about. That is not the case so it is a little harder to swallow, but we are going to use it to our advantage for sure."

MLS bye weeks don't necessarily compare to bye weeks in other sports, but there are certainly parallels.

For what it's worth, the Union has a 7-3-2 all-time record when playing games after a "bye week".

That includes the all-star break, international breaks, and any gap in the schedule that's larger than ten days.

"I think there are positives that you can take away from it," Hackworth said. "You have an opportunity now to kind of separate yourself coming off the heels of a bad result. Time is excellent for that. You can kind of relax a little bit and work on some things that you haven’t had time to work on. More so than that, you can kind of give the guys a physical and mental break so that they don’t have to keep going after it the way you've been pushing them previously."

The reality is that a postseason berth is still absolutely attainable.

The 2011 Philadelphia Union playoff team didn't clinch until the second-last game of the season, a 1-1 home draw with Toronto FC. Even then, late drama in a 3-2 Chicago win against Columbus influenced seeding in the Eastern Conference.

Bottom line – there's a lot of soccer left to play.

Keep in mind, this time last year the club was already eliminated from playoff position and thinking about the SuperDraft.

"The only thing I think we all feel is that we are disappointed," Hackworth explained. "We feel the frustration of the fans. That is certainly palpable when you walk off the field here after a game like Saturday night. But there is nobody more frustrated or more disappointed in that result than the players and coaches. We have to live it. It is our livelihood so we are very competitive group, we take a lot of pride in what we do and we have lofty goals for ourselves. At the same time I think we have all been in this business long enough to know that these kind of run of forms happen in particular in the MLS season. I can tell you many times having a five game winless streak is nothing compared to some of the winless streaks I have had in the past as a coach. It is how you rebound from them. I remember one such streak where we were able to reel off 12 consecutive wins. I am not saying we are going to get to that level, but we are still in a good position for ourselves. If we take care of business, if we play the way we played on Saturday night, we will get the results. The ball will start falling in our favor. That is just the feeling that we have, that we have been really unfortunate and at the same time we have to take care of business ourselves and not leave it to chance, that it is going to be a one goal game or it is going to be a difficult decision that goes against us

What are you thoughts on the Union having a bye week now? Is it good timing? Bad timing? Let us know in the comments below.

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com