After Philadelphia Union survived an early spell of pressure from Seattle Sounders and walked out of CenturyLink Field winners, they are close to securing a playoff berth for the second time in three years and have set a new record for road wins in a season.
Andre Blake provided a big early save and then Haris Medunjanin slowed the match down in the 23rd minute as Ale Bedoya dragged defenders around with endless energy. Philly could have folded after getting overrun in the opening 20 minutes, but instead they buckled down, closed off passing lanes through the center, and hauled themselves back into a brutally difficult road match.
The loss of Raul Ruidiaz hurt Seattle, but it was veteran leadership that helped the Union clamor back into the game after looking lost early on. Even though they rarely established lengthy possessions, Medunjanin and Bedoya helped create dangerous sequences by making patient decisions, and as a result Seattle was more hesitant to throw bodies forward as the match unwound.
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Hard work up front
It wasn’t just the vets that pushed Philly on though. CJ Sapong was energetic for his entire shift, Cory Burke battled endlessly up front, and Fafa Picault made a lifetime’s worth of sprints.
Burke’s night is notable because he did so much that won’t be captured in basic statistics. With only six passes all night, Burke needed to contribute in other ways. And boy did he ever. There were the three shots (plus a fourth called back for offsides) and three fouls won. But there was also the nonstop physical battle he entered into with anybody that came in his general vicinity. Seattle’s comfort on the ball dropped considerably in the second half, and Burke was no small part of that.
Neither was Picault. The winger didn’t just sprint forward after long passes, he also recovered with energy whenever needed. A 28th-minute sprint that covered at least 18 yards back toward the center of the pitch helped disrupt Seattle’s early rhythm and establish the Union’s own foothold in the match.
2014. 2016. 2017. Each year, Philadelphia Union finished the season with 42 points. In his fifth season, with a philosophy firmly in place, Curtin is moving on up. The Union still have five games to play, so that number could rise considerably before the season is out. Next, Philly will look to build on Wednesday night’s win with a strong showing against Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City. A win on Sunday would all but guarantee a playoff spot before Philly travels to Houston for a chance at the club’s first silverware.