As the Union (1-4-3) prepare to face the Columbus Crew (2-2-2) this weekend, there seems to be a noticeable change in the team's attitude since the start of the season.
In the past two weeks, the team has gone 1-1-1 and has jumped into a tie for sixth place in the East with six points overall.
In the two matches which gained them results, the Union scored a late winner and late equalizer. In their most recent match, a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution (3-2-2), the team held a 1-0 lead in the first half, before conceding two second half goals.
Regardless, the team's resilient attitude is beginning to show and player identities are starting to come to the surface.
"It shows a little bit of character," said midfielder Maurice Edu on the Union's late scoring. "It shows a resilience and a never say die attitude that we have in this group. The guys fought hard until the final whistle. ... I think in the second half we always felt like we had a goal in us. It’s a credit to the guys to keep fighting hard and to get that goal."
The Union have now scored six goals in their past four matches, after notching just three goals in their first four. Wins in the next two matches against the Crew and struggling Toronto FC (1-4-0) could right the Union's early season struggles. Edu believes communication on the field is one of the key things the Union need to accomplish in order to take another step forward as a team.
"Overall the communication has to be better," Edu said. "If you want to be a successful team, that comes from everyone taking it upon themselves to be a little more vocal and to help the guy next to him. When you're more vocal you're more in tune with the game. ... If everyone on the team kind of takes it upon themselves to be a little more vocal it will help the team go a little bit further."
A lot of the communication struggles have to do with injuries and roster changes to start the season for the club. Union's starter in net to begin the season, Rais M'bolhi, was replaced by local product John McCarthy three matches ago due to M'bolhi's (0-3-2) record to start the season. C.J. Sapong, one of the team's top offensive weapons, suffered a concussion and facial fracture in the team's first game and has played in limited minutes since. Young midfielder Cristian Maidana, who had one of the Union's all-time greatest goals over the weekend, has missed three matches to injury as well.
As players start returning from injury, expect a much better Union product on the field. Union manager Jim Curtin has been impressed by the recent play of Sapong especially, but he's not using injuries as an excuse for the team's early struggles.
"You know what you’re going to get with C.J.,” Curtin said. “He’s going to work very hard, he does a good job holding the ball, he’s athletic, he’s a threat on set pieces, very good in the air. ... We have to be a team that can overcome injuries. The excuse of injuries and missing guys is a tired one.”
The Union play in Columbus at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The match will air on The Comcast Network.