Ugly or pretty, doesn't matter. To Union corps, winning is main mindset in push for playoffs
It’s a good outlook, one that you could dare even to call motivational.
The "problem" is being in a conference in which very few clubs have found their footing in a race for the postseason. Such is the case for the Union which still has a chance to qualify for its second ever playoff run in a hotly contested Eastern Conference. Currently, the Union sits eighth best in the East with a 4-8-6 (18 points) record in Major League Soccer, but have found its form as of late, scoring goals in bunches and earning wins in all competitions, the latest a 2-0 victory against the New England Revolution in U.S. Open Cup play Tuesday night.
The victory marked the sixth game out of the last seven in all competitions in which the Union has scored two goals or more after starting off the 2014 MLS campaign with what was routinely described as a “goal scoring funk.”
Now, the team is finishing its chances; the technical staff is putting the finishing touches on announcing some additions to its corps and in a season where things appear to be getting hotter, aspirations are high that this season can end on a high note.
“It’s a positive thing,” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin. “Fortunately the East isn’t very strong right now this year, which is helpful. When you look at the table, I think it’ll probably take 45 points maybe, which comes to about 12 [total] wins and 10 [total] ties maybe something in that range to get into the playoffs. We’re running out of games, though, so there is a sense of urgency."
The Union look to get off on the right foot this Saturday when the team continues MLS action at home against Colorado (7 p.m., purchase tickets) before a midweek clash against Eastern rival New York on Wednesday (7 p.m., purchase tickets) also at PPL Park.
“We have two at home Colorado and then New York,” Curtin continued. “Two huge games, where you don’t call them “must wins” yet, but they’re two huge games so we have to be ready for them. It’s been a busy, crazy schedule, but like we’ve been saying in the locker room, ‘we’re two games from being in the first final this club has ever been in [on the first team] so that’s something special.”
What’s special too is that the players have also bought into a grind that will transpire over the next four months. As it stands, the Union has three matches to go in July, four games in August, five games in September and four in October. Of those 16 matches, 10 will be in the familiar confines of PPL Park.
So what has changed? Since Curtin took over, there have been changes but nothing drastic. Perhaps the biggest change has been the switch of Amobi Okugo to the midfield and moving Maurice Edu to central defense. Edu has been shut down in that role, which many players will attest has paid dividends thus far.
“The fact that Maurice Edu is in the back giving us some more stability for sure,” said midfielder Sebastien Le Toux. “He has more experience and doesn’t panic when you move the ball, so I think it’s a big plus for us. I think everything right now works well and overall it was a good effort from the team.”
Le Toux paused and added:
“Winning is the most important right now. I don’t think we worry too much about playing well. Of course we move the ball and stay balanced; we think about winning first and not playing pretty. Our guys have concentrated on doing all that we can to win and over the past couple of weeks it’s worked for us.”
What do you think on the Union’s recent run of form? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org