Clichés are the worst.
Especially in writing, but in this case there is an old adage that carries more weight that you know for the Philadelphia Union this week:
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
On a multitude of levels, that statement fits the feeling of how the Union must view a demoralizing 5-1 loss in Foxboro last Sunday against a surging New England team hoping to find itself in the playoff picture come the end of the regular season.
When you think about it however, perhaps the one thing the loss affected most was the pride of a team out to secure its own playoff spot, a spot the Union has maintained for much of the season sitting in fourth place.
It’s where the Union (10-8-8) remained with 38 points after the upset against New England and with such a tight race in MLS’ East the club is still on pace to lock up a share of the top spot with Montreal, which currently sit atop the standings with 41 points.
Oh, and tack on losses from Sporting Kansas City and New York, both of which play Saturday and both sitting on 39 points.
Perhaps the biggest bane the match against the Revs caused was now the Union will need to shuffle around its lineup to deal with the loss of center back Amobi Okugo. Okugo will serve a two-game suspension after receiving cumulative yellow cards and an ejection in the match against New England. Additionally, according to Union manager John Hackworth both midfielder Keon Daniel (ankle) and defender Ray Gaddis (ankle) are currently listed as question marks for Saturday against Montreal (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets). In Gaddis’ case, Brazilian newcomer Fabinho has stepped in well during Gaddis’ rehab, but the question now is who will play in central defense or conceivably even outside if Hackworth and Co. decide to shift right back Sheanon Williams into the middle of the pitch.
Not sure the plan, but against Montreal – which enter PPL Park on a high following a 5-0 rout of Houston – it’ll have to be a solid one.
“We have to stay together and get a good game plan together,” said Union captain Brian Carroll after the loss. “Sometimes, results like this are a big wakeup call and you can react one of two ways: you can let it get you down or you can stay strong and stay together and fight harder and do well for the rest of the season. We have to find a way to do the latter part.”
Resiliency has been a part of the Union’s makeup this season as the club has yet to lose following a loss. Of its eight losses this season, the Union holds a 4-0-3 record after and has proved time and time again that after coming up short against opponents the frustration is funneled into stronger play – and ultimately points.
And why has that seemingly been the case this season?
“We don’t have a choice but to come back and prepare for [the next match],” said midfielder Danny Cruz. “We’ve seen the standings; we know where we are at. We’re still in a position to be successful. But we’re better than [the way we played against New England] and we get to prove that next week [against Montreal] hopefully.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org