Despite a recent string of results that has left Philadelphia Union winless since July 17, the expansion side is determined to remain positive in an effort to turn their season around.
Rather than focusing on an unfavorable position in the table -- the Union are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points through 20 matches -- the club is concentrating exclusively on Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution.
Especially with three points proving hard to come by as of late, the club realizes that any other mindset would be counter-productive.
“Yes, exactly, we just think one game at a time,” Sebastien Le Toux told philadelphiaunion.com after training on Tuesday. “We just work hard at practice to be better and continue to build this team. I’m sure we’re going to work hard every day and try to win the most games we can. The next game is against New England so it’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
Philadelphia’s performance against D.C. makes it easy to forget that, results aside, the Union have been playing well during their current six-match winless streak. That reality is not lost upon the players, and they’re not about to drastically change their approach in training because of a sub-par showing.
[inline_node:286799]“Just pretty much the same stuff we’ve been doing,” midfielder Justin Mapp said when asked what the club is focusing on to bounce back from Sunday’s loss. “Working hard, putting a lot of intensity into it. You know, tactically, a few things shape-wise, little areas where we broke down in the game Sunday in D.C. Everyone is positive, upbeat, and hopefully we’ll correct our mistakes this weekend.”
The 2-0 result in favor of United was a regression by all accounts, but it was only one match. The challenge now -- no different than before Sunday’s loss or at any other point this season – is to focus on winning as many of the club’s remaining matches as possible.
“I feel like looking back at the D.C. match, we can be a little more dynamic on and off the ball,” said midfielder Kyle Nakazawa. “It all comes back to working for each other as a team, more fight, more grit, more bite.
“I think we can be successful this weekend. It (a win) would be huge. Looking back at this last stretch, we haven’t achieved the results we’ve hoped for. I think for us, we’re taking things day by day in training, one match at a time.”
In order to earn three points against the Revolution this weekend, the Union will have to eliminate their propensity for making crippling errors, a habit that has been most prevalent on the road.
Playing in enemy territory is never an easy task -- road teams are 40-40-80 in MLS play this season -- but Philadelphia’s 1-9-1 record away from home is indicative of struggles more severe than any playoff-bound side could absorb.
“When we are away, after we just take a goal (against us), we don’t have the attitude to come back,” said Le Toux. “We did one (time) in Houston this year. Sometimes it has been a lot of mistakes to give up goals, so I think we have to delete them and be better for the next game.
“I think (the key to having more success on the road) is to keep our head up and really give everything every time even if it’s not going our way. We still have lots of energy and we can’t give up. So it’s just to continue to play hard and win a game away and try to do our best every time.”
Despite being 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with ten matches to play, the club hasn’t given up all hopes of making an improbable late-season playoff run. Still mathematically alive and focusing only on the match immediately ahead, there’s really no benefit to thinking any other way.
“I think the goal has been to get in the playoffs and see if we can make a push,” Mapp said. “We haven’t put ourselves in the best position, but ten games left, get hot, make a push and maybe get in the playoffs. I don’t think the goals have changed. But were just taking it one game at a time.”