The Philadelphia Union have 12 league matches remaining.
Where the Playoff race is concerned, every one of them could be characterized as a 'must win'.
For this young side, the Union are focused on the match immediately looming and that’s Friday night against Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. at PPL Park. The Union (7-12-3) are winless in their last three matches while RSL is 0-3-0 in league action in the month of August.
Philadelphia is 0-2-2 all-time against RSL (13-10-3), but all that matters is the next one. And that won’t be easy, despite RSL’s recent struggles.
“You have to throw (RSL’s losing streak) out the window,” Union interim manager John Hackworth said. “Plus, they won (Tuesday) night in a really important (CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage) game for them. They are fighting for the Supporter’s Shield right now, and I know coach (Jason) Kreis will push them hard. They are a good team, that’s the bottom line.”
For the Union, it’s about executing in this match and then focusing in on the next one. They need points, especially at home.
“We can’t give away points, and we have to maximize points the rest of the way,” Hackworth said. “We hope we can get some help and some breaks from the teams above us. It would be unreasonable to think we will run the table from here on out, so every chance, especially when we play at home, is very important for us.”
Earning three points will be even tougher without the services of defender Sheanon Williams, who received a second yellow card and was sent off in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at D.C. United.
Look for rookie Ray Gaddis to step in for a larger role.
“It doesn’t matter if a team has heavy legs, because anytime Ray Gaddis is running at you, you will have heavy legs,” Hackworth said. “The kid is fast. He’s a good soccer player, too, and we look to use that to our advantage. We want to get Ray forward to unbalance teams and create a numerical advantage on the right side. We need to make sure we push our outside backs forward.”
The Union’s schedule is quite difficult from here on out. If they can pick up three much-needed points here, it’s something to build on. The final push starts now.
“We do not have an easy finish to our schedule at all, if you look at our October schedule,” Hackworth said. “We have to make sure at this time, playing at home, that we get the maximum amount of points. This is a must-win situation for us.”