Union

Union feel 'sense of urgency' as playoff doubt creeps in

Union feel 'sense of urgency' as playoff doubt creeps in

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."

More disappointment in cards for Union in shutout loss at FC Dallas

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More disappointment in cards for Union in shutout loss at FC Dallas

BOX SCORE

FRISCO, Texas — Mauro Diaz and Maximiliano Urruti scored and FC Dallas remained one of the two unbeaten teams in MLS with a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

Diaz opened the scoring with a penalty kick in the 64th minute. Dallas' Matt Hedges drew the penalty, trying to connect with Diaz's corner and getting pulled down from behind by defender Auston Trusty at the top of the 6-yard box.

FC Dallas (3-0-3) made it 2-0 in the 74th minute when Roland Lamah played a through ball up the left side to Urruti, who slipped around goalkeeper Andre Blake with his first touch and slotted home the finish from a narrow angle.

The Union extended their winless streak to five and dropped to 1-3-2.

Union dealing with all sorts of frustration after another home loss

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Union dealing with all sorts of frustration after another home loss

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — With four of their first five matches at home, the Union had an opportunity to get their season off to a positive start. But with a 1-2-2 record, capped off by a 2-0 loss to Orlando City on Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium, the Union are wondering what went wrong (see observations).

“I didn’t get the job done,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “I take responsibility for the group. I know we have a really strong team. We’ve played good soccer at home, we just need to bury those chances.”

The poor results haven’t come from a lack of effort. The Union have outshot opponents, 87-48, this season, and are currently fifth in MLS in possession at 54.3 percent. But like Curtin said, it’s been about the finish. They’ve been outscored, 6-3, this season and are averaging just over a half goal per game.    

“The ball is not bouncing our way right now, it’s not going in the net,” Curtin said. “And with that, confidence drops. I understand the frustration from the fans. The players are frustrated, I’m frustrated and it’s difficult. We need to stick together in the hardest moments.“

According to midfielder Haris Medunjanin, the Union are pressing too hard to score. He said on Friday after the loss that the team was off in every facet, and that the lack of offense isn’t bad luck, but a patience issue.

“We need to keep the ball more,” he said of the midfielders. “We want to attack every attack and that’s not possible. You can’t attack every attack. That was our problem today. We were not patient, we attacked too quick. I think we need to learn from that and play as a team.” 

His frustration was palpable. 

“It’s about scoring goals,” he said. “If you have just one chance and you score a goal and it’s 1-0, it’s enough. It’s about winning games. It’s not about how many chances you create, it’s about scoring goals.”

Between David Accam, Borek Dockal, Fafa Picault and C.J. Sapong, the Union should have enough firepower to find the net. And though it’s not connecting right now, Curtin is confident his team will find that scoring groove. It just has to relax.

“We have quality attackers and they all want to contribute and help,” Curtin said. “Maybe sometimes they press and try to do too much. We have to find the balance. When our team is at its best, it’s Haris and (Alejandro) Bedoya controlling the tempo of the game. Right now, it isn’t clicking. At the same time, I know we have the possibility to break out.”