The Union (6-13-5) are running out of time to make a final playoff push this season and the club’s front office is doing all it can during this crucial time period to bolster the roster with some extra talent that can help get them there.
In the span of two weeks, the Union have added Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta via a free transfer and defender Warren Creavalle via a trade with Toronto FC to give the Union some added firepower in the club’s remaining 10 matches of the regular season.
Barnetta becomes the club’s 15th internationally-born player on the roster and the fifth added by the team this season. Barnetta played for FC Schalke 04 during the 2014-15 season and made 22 appearances while scoring three goals and adding five assists. Creavalle played in 24 games with Toronto, making 15 starts and notching two goals.
Despite recent struggles, the team is still clinging onto playoff position with 23 points, just five points off of the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Manager Jim Curtin was pleased with the team’s strong defensive performance Saturday, drawing Orlando City SC (7-10-7), 0-0, on the road and keeping hope alive.
“We talked to the guys before the game started about having a professional approach to the game, a professional performance,” Curtin said. “We talked about everyone just having a good game — no one has to feel the need to be great — just if everyone has a good game, that’s usually when we get points. And I thought everyone did. … You take the point and you move on.”
As the Union move forward, they’ll start with a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against the Chicago Fire (6-12-4) Wednesday at PPL Park. They’ll face them again Sunday, but this time with crucial points and playoff positioning on the line.
“We have a little grit and grind to us,” said goalie John McCarthy, previewing this week’s matches. “We know when we have to perform and every game is meaningful to us. We try to bring that [mindset] every time we step onto the field and this is a time to step onto the field and make something happen as a team.”
In April, the Union had a similar situation where they faced New York City FC (6-11-6) twice in the span of five days. After a win and a draw, the Union came away with four points. They’re hoping a similar result happens this week, but this time with two victories.
“Having home field advantage is huge. It’s difficult to go on the road whether it’s in the Open Cup or the regular season. … Knowing that [Chicago] has struggled on the road a little bit this year plays into our hands a bit. [We] have our next two games against them in kind of this unique setup and we’ll have the opportunity to feed off the crowd, feed off the energy in the building and take care of business.”
The team has won back-to-back matches just once this season. Wednesday’s Open Cup match will air at 7:30 p.m. on U.S. Soccer’s Youtube channel, Sunday’s match will air at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
Curtin sets the record straight, eyes Open Cup trophy:
“Sometimes the headlines read like I guaranteed we’re going to make the playoffs. That’s not the case. We have to take it one game at a time. We have 10 games left – five home and five away – and a cup run in in the middle of all of this. We recognize it has not been a good season, the guys in the locker room recognize it has not been a good season, but we have to stick together and fight. … We are capable of winning a trophy. We have a chance to put two good games together to lift the club’s first trophy and it’s one of the hardest things to do in our game.”