This weekend, the Union (11-11-8) will find out what they’re truly made of as a team. At fourth place in the Eastern Conference, the Union face first-place Toronto FC (13-8-8) on the road on Saturday. The team has all but locked up a playoff spot, but Saturday will show them if they’re truly contenders when the playoffs get underway next month.
With just four matches remaining in the regular season, seven points separate the fourth-place Union (41 points) and seventh-place D.C. United (34 points). Theoretically, the only way in which the Union could miss out on the playoffs is if they lost the last four games of the season while United won out. United hasn’t had back-to-back wins all season, so a four-game winning streak is highly unlikely.
“It’s tough on the road in this league,” Union manager Jim Curtin said, after a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers this past weekend. “I think the data shows it’s the toughest league in the world actually, percentagewise, to win on the road. It’s difficult. So, we have a tough task ahead of us, Toronto and New York, two teams in the East that we’re close with. We need to take advantage. Any point goes a long way at this point of the year, whether it’s a tie or a win.”
The Union have faced Toronto FC once this season, in a 3-1 loss at home back on Aug. 20 in star midfielder Alejandro Bedoya’s debut. Now firmly entrenched in the Union offense, the team is counting on Bedoya to provide an offensive spark on Saturday.
“We’ve asked Bedoya to play with a couple of different teammates, and he’s adjusted well,” Union forward Chris Pontius said. “He’s busy in the middle finding the ball and make things happen for us. He’s been good for us. We’ve just, like I said, we’ve given up untimely goals the past few weeks.”
After an eight-match unbeaten streak earlier in the season which propelled them to the top of the standings, a three-match losing streak is not what the Union had in mind as a team during the final stretch of the season. If they’re not careful, they could end up with an unfriendly playoff seeding by the end of the year, played away from Talen Energy Stadium.
“We have a lot of games still to be played,” Curtin said. “Four games, we still have two at home, as well, to end the season. But we want to go into those last two games having already clinched a playoff spot and that’s the goal of these next two games.”
The Union’s match against Toronto FC will air at 5 p.m. on the Comcast Network.