“Good teams hit their stride at the right time.”
Jim Curtin said that in a recent press conference and by the looks of it, his statement just happens to hold true for the Union, the club he has been responsible for since taking the interim reins in June.
On Wednesday, PPL Park was the site of a 1-0 over a listless TFC side, but Saturday found the Canadian club drop its third straight as goals from Conor Casey and Andrew Wenger lifted the Union (9-9-9, 36 points) not just over Toronto (9-11-6, 33 points), but fourth in MLS’ Eastern Conference and soundly into playoff contention, yet again.
"I actually thought today we were better than on Wednesday to be honest," said Curtin. "I’m happy with the guys’ performance. Toronto is a very good team who are missing some pieces right now and we are a little bit fortunate to get them at the time we did."
Casey’s eighth and Wenger’s sixth MLS goal of the season also marked Philadelphia’s 200th and 201st in Major League Soccer. Additionally, defender Sheanon Williams was the catalyst on both playing both balls over the top to pick out the heads of Casey and Wenger.
"We came in feeling good this week knowing that we wanted to win at home and we took care of business there," Casey after the match. "When you have the defense playing as well as they are, with two shutouts it gives the team a lot of confidence. We’ve had a good run of results and we’ve also been playing well. Sometimes you play well but don’t get the results but we’ve had both. Every guy on our roster right now is pulling in the right direction and we just want to keep improving and getting points."
What the Union also showed in this match was its depth at many positions, in addition to the effect of having a healthy Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana on the field. Both didn’t seem to show any effects from earlier season injuries and were the catalysts on offensive charges all afternoon. After Wednesday’s match, many players stressed that keeping close wraps on U.S. men’s national team playmaker Michael Bradley was going to be paramount, and although Bradley did get his chances, including a shot late in the second half that hit the Union crossbar, the club managed to stifle much of his prowess, credit for that going to strong play from Nogueira and fellow defensive midfielder Amobi Okugo, who covered major ground in his holding role.
It’s now a week before MLS play resumes for the Union, who will host a pair of upcoming matches at PPL Park. On Saturday, Sept. 13 it’s a nationally televised rivalry match against the New York Red Bulls (3 p.m., purchase tickets), followed up three days later with a massive midweek match against Seattle Sounders FC for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).
"Together we are confident," Wenger told reporters postgame. "Every guy in the locker room is putting together good performance week in and week out. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time.
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org