Chester, Pa. - For the first time in club history, the Philadelphia Union will have an opportunity to sweep a season series when they head to D.C. for a Sunday showdown with United (2:00pm, 6abc/MyNetwork TV - WQMY).
A win would mark the second ‘first’ against Philadelphia’s burgeoning I-95 rival – the initial ‘first’ of course being the first win in franchise history, a 3-2 result on April 10 at Lincoln Financial Field.
While there may be a certain amount of pride associated with beating a rival for the second time in the club’s inaugural season, the Union are far more focused on their own form than pumping the match up to be more important than any other.
“I don’t think at this point we’re in a position to think of sweeping as anything,” Union coach John Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com. “I’m sure from an outsider’s perspective the fact that we’re a rival would mean something. In reality, right now we need to concentrate on us and we need to make sure that whoever we play, whether it’s Real Salt Lake a week ago, or whether it’s Colorado or D.C. now, it’s an opponent that we have to go out and try to put together the kind of game, complete game, that we know we’re capable of.
“We don’t think internally at all ‘hey we have a chance to sweep them.’ We think, ‘hey D.C. is our next opponent, they stand in the way of what we want to accomplish as a whole and the kind of soccer we know we’re capable of playing.’”
In many ways, the Union have already been showcasing the type of quality that Hackworth is referencing. The results, however, have not followed suit, leaving the club looking for answers.
[inline_node:286705]“Just like coach [Peter Nowak] has said, maybe we shut off for a few minutes here and there,” said defender Jordan Harvey. "We have defensive lapses, or we aren’t executing in the final third to get that final pass to score. So I think it’s really just focusing on those things, and just staying focused for 90 minutes and don’t have any lapses.”
It appears as if the club has identified two areas in particular that need to be improved -- finishing and avoiding defensive letdowns -- and now the challenge will be implementing the adjustments being made in training. If the club can do that, and continue doing the things that have been successful, Hackworth believes it’s only a matter of time before results begin to swing in Philadelphia’s favor on a more consistent basis.
“There are a number of factors that go into that (failing to earn attainable points),” he said. “One is, look, if we finish the type of chances we create, then we don’t put ourselves in a position to be in so many of these tight games. On the flip side of it, we can do a better job defensively as a unit and we need to continue to try to push to be better in that area.
“And then at some point we feel like we're going to get some breaks, because we feel like we’ve been extremely unlucky in some decisions and some key moments in games. Whether that’s because we're the new kids, an expansion club, or there’s some bias out there, I don't know. But my feeling is if you keep doing the right things long enough, you’re going to get some chances and those breaks will come your way.”
The Union haven’t been on the receiving end of much luck this season, but they also haven’t done themselves any favors on the road. With five first half red cards, all away from home, Philadelphia have unsurprisingly struggled to a 1-8-1 road mark.
“I think we have to really delete all the mistakes we used to do when we play away,” said Sebastien Le Toux, who needs a goal and an assist Sunday to become the fourth player in MLS history to reach double digits in each category through his club’s first 20 matches. “Stop (getting) red cards, stop (being) too gentle. All the games in the beginning of the season we gave goals away very easily. That was really the big thing.
“Everybody needs to really step up his game. Everybody has to see what he can do better for our team. Like me, I can see what I can do better to really help my team. My passes, my shooting and my chances that I create, I have to score. If everyone really steps into his game and really focuses I think we can have some results over there.”