The Philadelphia Union are making their last West Coast trip of the season and will play in a difficult road environment when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium (11 pm ET, ESPN2).
But their plan is not to play it safe and hope to escape with a draw, as some teams might do after making a cross-country trip.
Their plan instead is to play an open game and try to break out of their recent offensive slump in front of national TV audience.
“We’re at the point where we need to get a win here,” Union winger Danny Cruz told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re certainly not going there looking for a draw.”
Despite having netted a healthy 37 goals this season, the Union (10-8-9, 39 points) have only scored once in their past three games – an 0-1-2 stretch that has put the club’s playoff chances in a bit more peril.
Cruz, the player who scored that one goal, thinks that drought is bound to end sooner rather than later.
“I don’t want us to go back to where we were at the end of last year when we were saying we had all these opportunities but we’re not scoring,” Cruz said. “I think if we continue to do that, all it’s going to take is one. Once that happens and we get a good result, then hopefully we’ll go back to being the team that’s scoring two, three goals a game for the most important stretch of the year.”
For Union manager John Hackworth, the recent scoring woes are not an indication of any overlying issue, except for some bad luck in the attacking third and a couple of missed chances from leading scorer Jack McInerney.
“I think we’re toward the top of the league in goals scored, so I don’t worry about our attack,” Hackworth said. “We’ve created some really good chances. If we didn’t crate the chances, I would be worried. But as long as we create those chances, that’s the most important thing.”
But will the Union be able to finish their chances against the Earthquakes (9-11-7, 34 points) and pick up their first win since Aug. 10?
Cruz thinks it would be the perfect time to do so.
“This is a big game for all of us,” the Union midfielder said. “This is a big game for our careers and a big game for this club. And the result’s a must.
“But there’s pressure on us, especially as an attacking group. There was a stretch this year where we were one of the top two teams in goals scored. We need to get back to that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.