Philadelphia Union returned to MLS regular season play in style, defeating Eastern Conference foe D.C. United 3-1 at Audi Field on Saturday night. After the match, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, recapping the team’s win.
The match marked the third installment of the pair's rivalry in 2023. The first two meetings finished in a draw and a Leagues Cup shootout win, but this time around, Philadelphia Union entered the match with a newfound intensity that earned them their first dominant victory over D.C. this year.
“I think that the goal that we score comes off of just good hard pressure in their defensive half, our attacking half, and we get a goal from that. So I thought that we were brave, I thought that we started the game being proactive rather than reactive, which is important for us,” Curtin said.
“The previous two games weren't the most exciting. There were chances in both of those games. But to score the first one – you know how well we play with a lead . It causes teams to open up and that's when we're at our best.”
The Boys in Blue left the Capitol with three points in tow, boosting their season total to 43. As of Saturday night, they sit in second place behind FC Cincinnati with 54.
“I talked to our guys and said this game sets the tone for our final 11 games and I think they really bought into that. Look, we know where Cincinnati is, but we also want to at least put some pressure on them as best we can. We have 10 games, that's 33 points still out there. Let's go for all of them,” Curtin said.
Every goal matters
The team’s front three in Julián Carranza, Daniel Gazdag, and Mikael Uhre account for 28 of the Union’s goals this season, but Curtin said frequent contributions from players across the roster, like Jack McGlynn’s 13th minute goal against D.C., will be the difference-makers through their final stretch before the playoffs.
“I think last year you saw them kind of carry us in an extreme way. Our defense was extreme as well in terms of what we conceded. So that was a unique, unique season. This year, we still are having a very good year, there's a little regression in certain areas but still we know we can beat anybody. So that's kind of the name of the game,’ Curtin said.
“I think that, you know, when that front three goes well, and we get contributions from from a McGlynn or Ale [Bedoya] chips in with a goal, or Jesus Bueno gets a goal, or José [Martinez] scores, one from deep, or a center back scores off of restart, those are things that are really important.”
Though there’s just short of two months left of the regular season, postseason aspirations propel the team forward.
“I said it to the guys. Last year, we lost home field advantage on a tiebreaker. So every point matters. Every goal matters against a tiebreaker and every win matters. That's really the way it has to be now these last 10 games, we want to start that playoff feel now, rather than trying to flick a switch at the last four games of the year. It doesn't work that way. So we started I think the right way with this first game in our return to league play,” Curtin said.
'Best fans in the league'
After the game, Curtin expressed his gratitude for the contingent of Union faithful who made the trip to Audi Field to support the squad in their return to MLS play.
“Big thank you to the fans that have made this trip to D.C. kind of an annual pilgrimage. They were really loud from minute on, and I think are a big reason why we started the game so fast. So thank you,” Curtin said.
“For all of them to come down here, I know, it's not easy in the summer. But it really helps us a lot. Again, we have the best fans in the league and the presence here was felt.
Sage Hurley - @SageHurley__