We all do it.
Fans, players, coaches and even us here at philadelphiaunion.com.
As much as you try to take one game at a time, focus on the now and “control your own destiny,” you can’t help but wonder if the playoffs are slipping.
But instead of looking at recent results and debating whether or not points were left on the table, it’s probably better for our collective psyches to focus on what’s in store on the front foot of things. Choose to do that and you'll find a slate of four matches, favorable not just because they really emphasize crunch time, but because three of them are at PPL Park.
Both players and coaches have stressed making PPL Park “a fortress” this season. In a very tough and long MLS schedule, the Union has done just that going 5-2-7 overall at home in League play this season, scoring 25 goals against MLS opponents.
Also, with three of the club’s last four remaining regular season matches are at home this season, this marks the first time in the club’s five year history in which it has had three home matches in October.
That’s nine possible points on the Chester waterfront against Chicago (Thursday, 8 p.m.), Columbus (Oct. 11, 7 p.m.) and Sporting Kansas City (Oct. 18, 7 p.m.), before a final trip to the Midwest to take on Columbus again, mind you another team that like the Union is chasing postseason aspirations as well (Oct. 26, 5 p.m., The Comcast Network).
There has been a bit of a drought in the goals department, but you have expect that as temporary for a team that not only looks to qualify for the postseason, but prior to shutouts by Houston and D.C. United, scored 23 goals (15 goals at PPL Park) since interim team manager Jim Curtin took the reins for the club’s first MLS match against New England on June 28.
“The goals have dried up,” Curtin said following Saturday's match against United. “We are still getting chances; getting looks in front of goal, but we need to have a little more commitment to get into the box…the goals have dried up, but we are going to have to find a way to fight through it. We need to win three games in a row to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs.
Curtin’s right. However, if this team hunkers down and returns to its goal scoring form, then there is much to mull over those three games when you consider the following:
- The Union is 9-1-3 overall this season when scoring the first goal with an average of nearly two goals (1.79) per game.
- When leading at the half the club is 7-1-3 overall.
- But even if the club isn’t leading at intermission, it still has scored 23 goals in the last 60 minutes of a match, which is tops in the Eastern Conference. Overall, the Union has scored 27 of its 45 total goals this season in the second half.
Take from these numbers what you will; they’re merely the facts in what has been a marathon MLS season. But also know that they matter – especially now for a team that still has a very strong chance of being one of the last five standing in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to prepare, both mentally and physically,” said Union midfielder Sebastien Le Toux, who was at training Monday coming off an injury sustained in Saturday’s match against D.C United. “We need to get back our winning touch and I don’t think we have missed it, it’s just that we are looking for that little spark from someone. People may see these past few games as bad results because we didn’t win…but we are still the [playoff race] so everything is possible, it’s just going to take all of us because nobody is going to help us get there.”
What do you think about the playoff picture? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org