The Union’s season has come down to the wire.
With two games remaining and no wins in their last five, the once surefire playoff participant that eyed hosting a playoff game has fallen, opening the door to missing the postseason altogether.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” Union manager Jim Curtin confessed.
The effect of that urgency will be tested starting Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. Currently holding the sixth and final playoff spot, the Union can finish as high as fourth but as low as seventh, as they conclude the regular season by hosting Orlando City SC and the New York Red Bulls.
“It’s still a confident group,” Curtin told CSNPhilly.com. “It’s obvious we need to get a win, but the focus has been getting back to basics. If we play like we’re capable of and everyone puts in a good performance at home, where we’ve been good this year, the rest will take care of itself. I believe that.”
On the plus side for Curtin, the Union do control their own destiny. With a pair of wins matched with two Union losses, only the New England Revolution, who are three points behind the Union, can knock them out of playoff contention. If the Revs and Union tie in overall points and total wins, the Revs would need to overcome a minus-13 goal differential to win the tiebreaker.
“If we can take points from [Orlando City and Red Bulls], we can move up the table,” Curtin said. “Every point matters at this stage. I think we’re one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.”
Clear-headed and confident, Curtin explained why his club’s sudden drop needs context. Though the Union haven’t won since late August, causing white-knuckle frustration within the fan base, they did face a grind of four of five on the road, in Portland, Toronto and New York — three notoriously difficult places to play.
Curtin also filed the winless run as a way for the standings to even itself out. In other words, you are what your final record says you are, and the one-time Eastern Conference heavyweight was apt for a dose of honest regression.
“Over 34 games, it tells you where you stand,” Curtin said. “You could argue that of the 20 MLS teams, we’re somewhere in the 5 to 10 range, but with the capability of beating anyone in the top five."
After accepting the Union's struggles as the inevitable result of a youthful roster, mixed with the ebb and flow of a long season, Curtin is ready to move his club forward, starting on Saturday.
"We have an opportunity," he said, "to finish strong here and get ourselves into the playoffs."