Match preview: Improving place in standings, return to winning ways driving Union tonight

Preview of Friday's match against Sporting KC (8 p.m., NBCSN)

Jeff Parke vs. SKC

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

Philadelphia Union at Sporting Kansas City

When: 8 p.m.; Where: Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan. 

TV: NBC Sports Network with play-by-play announcer John Strong and color commentator Robbie Earle

Radio: None; Online: Watch streaming video via MLS LiveSocial: Follow action via our gameday Twitter feed

View: Union-Sporting Kansas City PDF game notes

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It’s all perception.

Had the Philadelphia Union gone through a slump two months ago and sat tied for sixth place and one point out of the playoff race, it probably would have been OK.

But with an 0-3-2 stretch and their last win coming Aug. 10, it seems as if the club is spiraling the wrong way.

All it takes is a huge road victory to get back on track and that’s exactly the situation facing the Union (10-10-9, 39 points).

Philadelphia travels to Sporting Kansas City (14-9-6, 48 points) Friday night at Sporting Park.

Get a victory here and the club can come back home in a good position preparing for Toronto FC.

“In the big picture, we’re still in the playoff race,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “If you guys would have told me in February that we would be in the thick of it, I would take it, especially with five games to play. I feel really good about the way we’re playing.”

Read: Scouting report: Union vs. Sporting Kansas City

The Union’s last match was a tough 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

Since then, they have had two weeks to reflect and prepare for Sporting Kansas City.

With five matches remaining, this one is clearly huge. And the club remains quite confident.

“I know the perception is that we’re having a slide but based on performance and what we were able to do against Houston and games before that, I think we’re in a good spot,” Hackworth said. “We have everything to play for and it’s up to us. We’re in a spot that most of us would have taken at the start of the year.”

Following Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC, the Union also have road matches at D.C. United and Montreal with a home match also looming against SKC.

Not an easy five-match stretch but the Union have compiled points in tough environments all season.

“In the next five games we need to get three wins and probably another point along the way,” Hackworth said. “It will also depend on what other teams do, too. But I think realistically, you want to get nine-10 points out of these possible 15.”

While the recent five-match stretch has been frustrating, Hackworth knows his club can bounce back. He sees it in training. He sees it in the matches.

“It becomes desperate when you're not playing well, when you're not creating chances,” Hackworth said. “But if you have been in this game long enough, you're going to realize it's a cruel game and you're going to go through times where they're not falling for you. You don't want to hit the panic button. You want to make sure you believe in what you're doing and the process by how you're doing it and that's where we are right now.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com