Union-SKC season opener
Greg Carroccio

Le Toux, teammates confident going into last five regular season matches in push for playoffs

It’s sporadic, but when he does sit down to write, Union midfielder-forward Sebastien Le Toux pens a pretty detailed and informative blog for PPL EnergyPlus called "Le Toux’ Corner."

It provides a solid look at the club from a player's perspective and in his latest entry, there was a line that stood out among the rest.

It was a sentence that foreshadowed the notion that there is still plenty of fight in this Union collective:

“Everything is still possible, but we need a big reaction in the final five games of the regular season to make the playoffs.”

It’s true. Given a string of upsetting defeats and other mitigating situations many of which have been out of the club’s control quite frankly, Philadelphia sits tied for sixth in points in one of the tightest Eastern Conference races perhaps in the history of Major League Soccer. However, while the Union is down, they certainly aren’t out of the playoff race both mathematically – and emotionally.

A season that is making a claim to rival the club’s best in just its four-year history has been masked by the demanding pace from teams also in the thick of the Eastern Conference race. As it stood at the time of this report, Chicago (39 points) and Columbus (38 points) were battling for that fifth spot, held by New England, who clings to it with just 40 points. Each win could result in a six-point swing and each point keeps hope alive in what looks to be a dramatic final race to the finish for the Union.

“At this point, it’s really about individual guys making plays,” said Union defender Chris Albright. Albright would know – as a defender under MLS’ Los Angeles franchise, the Philly native captured a pair of MLS Cups (2002 and 2005) with the Los Angeles Galaxy. “You can talk about all the cliché things that guys say, like ‘win your battles’ but it’s really true. It comes down to guys making the plays whether it’s a clearance off the goal line or a save; those are the things that separate teams at this juncture of the season.”

We won’t know if a week respite from MLS action did the trick until Friday night when the Union faces Sporting Kansas City (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). This match is not a must-win in terms of keeping a clear path to the playoffs intact when looking at the math, but earning points on the road against a tough opponent like Kansas City can do wonders for a club’s collective psyche.

“The next five games are the most important,” said defender Jeff Parke. “We have to really push and turn that switch on and make as many good plays as you can. All of these games have a playoff type atmosphere about them now which does pump up the adrenaline a great deal. And if you can pull points from them it’s really a great motivator. We just need to make sure we really know how to get everything ready and check into these games, as every single one from here on out is vital.”

In 2011, the Union turned it on at the right time to the tune of pulling 15 points in its last 10 matches en route to its first playoff appearance. It was a supremely effective run that paid dividends to the club in the long haul.

And if you think about it, effective is all the Union needs to be in its final five to make sure “everything is still possible.”

What do you think about the tight Eastern Conference race? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com


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