It’s impressive, but this locker room insists it’s not good enough.
In what has been a brutal month of matches, the Philadelphia Union (9-9-11, 38 points) has come out relatively unscathed for the most part of September.
Coming up just short in extra time to Seattle in the final of the U.S. Open Cup certainly stung, but in Major League Soccer, September has been strong for interim manager Jim Curtin and the Union, going 2-0-2 in League play, scoring five goals and allowing the same amount despite moving around goalkeepers and having to make hard decisions on who the odd man out would be across a stingy defensive front.
In September, the Union can also boast three shutouts, with wins over Toronto FC (1-0, Sept. 3; 2-0, Sept. 6) and Saturday’s scoreless draw against Houston.
The old mantra of the offense starting with the defense certainly holds true on this team mainly in part to the deep dropping runs of midfielders Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu, and the flank play of left back Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams whipping in dangerous crosses on the right.
“We’re tough to break down,” Williams told reporters following Saturday’s match against Houston. “We’re definitely dangerous on the counter. We’ve been winning a lot of balls, picking off a lot of balls in the midfield. We keep doing that, we’re definitely going to put ourselves in good scoring opportunities. And again, we just got to have that killer instinct. We definitely had some good clear cut chances, and with not too many games left, we need to finish them.”
To call the chances aplenty in the match against Houston would be an understatement. According to MLS’ official score sheet, the Union had 17 attempts on goal; however just three chances were directed at Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
“Not our best effort, we were a little rusty, a little sloppy and a little off on the final pass,” said Curtin. “We still created a lot of chances. I thought the defense was very strong. I believe we didn’t give up a shot on goals, which is a positive. You take the point, but overall I’m not happy with the week when you look back at it now.
But look at the numbers and the scenarios.
The Union handed Toronto two strong games to start September, followed by a very strong outing against New York in which it battled back from a two-goal deficit, with a dominant second half display that had the look of playoff soccer. Follow that up with an Open Cup final that went the distance with Seattle and getting a shutout against a sneaky Houston team – albeit on devoid of a few starters – and you have a Union collective with a lot to look forward to heading into another mega match to close out the month on the road against D.C. United (3 p.m., NBC Sports).
A win Saturday and the Union would match its win total (three) in September in club history (3-2-1 in Sept. 2010).
Jim Curtin is all about finishing things strong.
This would be one heck of a statement.
“We have to prepare. Both mentally and physically,” said Sebastien Le Toux. “We need to get back out winning touch and I don’t think we have missed it, it’s just that we are looking again for that little spark from someone. People may see these past few games as bad results because we didn’t win, but we can all see it as a positive because we got points from the tie. We are still in the [playoff] race so everything is still possible; it’s just going to take all of us to get after it because nobody else is going to help us get there.”
What do you think of the Union’s September thus far? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org