"Games in hand."
It has been a mantra of the club ever since the midseason turnaround began on June 23, when the Union thumped Sporting Kansas City 4-0 at home. The win, which was Philadelphia’s first MLS victory since beating Chivas USA in late April, has sparked a 5-2-0 run in league play.
Philadelphia began the 2012 campaign playing only 11 matches in the first 14 weeks of the season, allowing their rivals to race ahead in games played and, importantly, points contested.
But the fightback up the MLS standings is on for John Hackworth’s side after a frenetic, successful July, which included the All-Star Game, an international match and 12 league points from a possible 15. Despite such a busy month, however, the Union have still played fewer league games than nearly every other club in MLS.
Back in the playoff conversation, the Union can look at the coveted top five spots of the Eastern Conference knowing they’ll play three more games down the stretch than the New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo, and Sporting KC, two more than the Chicago Fire, and one more than D.C. United.
Sitting just above Philadelphia on the outside looking in are Saturday's opponents Montreal Impact, who have played five more games than the Union thus far, and the Columbus Crew, the only other team in MLS to have logged just 19 matches as the season enters its final three months.
Adding to the oddities of Philadelphia's schedule is the fact that the Union will play only one more match against a Western Conference opponent, an August 24 contest against Real Salt Lake at PPL Park. Save for that game, they’ll play proverbial six-pointers for the entire second half of the season, including two games each against the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, and New England Revolution.
For the Union, the unique schedule means an excellent opportunity to pick up points against East foes. The quest for the playoffs continues this Saturday when Philadelphia make their first trip to Stade Saputo to face the Montreal Impact (7:30 p.m., CSN), and the Union return home the following weekend for a Sunday showdown against the Chicago Fire (7:00 p.m., TCN, tickets).