The word turnaround is generally defined as an unexpected change that results in a more favorable situation. That word is exactly the word to describe the Union's (4-8-3) current team at the moment, a team that ousted the Columbus Crew (4-5-4) 3-0 on Wednesday to move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
In three weeks, the Union have won three matches out of a possible four. It took them from September 6, 2014 of last season until May 17, 2015 of this season to reach that same win total, spanning 19 regular season matches.
"That’s now four strong showings in a row and I think something special is about to happen," said Union manager Jim Curtin, after Wednesday night's win. "Again it’s still only four games that we’ve put together so we need to keep it going. In a lot of ways it’s good to get a quick turnaround against New York City FC because we’re in a good way right now."
Union players, fans and analysts all have their theories on why things have turned around so quickly, but everyone is on the same page in terms of keeping the momentum moving. Was it the protest by their loyal fan group the Sons of Ben which sparked their recent play? Was it the return of athletic forward C.J. Sapong following a league mandated suspension? Was it finally finding consistency both on and off the field? The answers lie somewhere in the middle.
"I think it's first and foremost confidence, you know, that first win that we got, that big win against D.C. gave us all confidence," Sapong said. "My own situation with coming back gave me a little bit more appreciation and hunger, and from that it just emanates throughout everyone else on the team and you can just see that everyone has that hunger, and that desire to play, and play beautifully too. I think that its something we can continue to build on for sure."
Sapong has scored twice in the Union's past three matches on six shots. He ranks seventh in the MLS in goals per 90 minutes, averaging .71 in just 379 minutes. The next closest Union player, Zach Pfeffer, averages just .37 in 482 minutes.
"I think that we’ve put a lot of stuff behind us, whether that be injures or off the field stuff," defender Sheanon Williams said. "We’re trying to put things behind us and move forward. It helps to have healthy bodies in practice, it helps to have a little bit of consistency. I think maybe this game might be the first game we’ve had the same lineups two times in a row, and that definitely helps. Hopefully we can continue that. A lot of credit goes out to our training staff, keeping us fit, and our strength and conditioning coach. It’s been hard on them with all the injuries so it’s been nice to have healthy bodies."
Saturday will be a tough test for the Union against NYCFC (1-7-5) on short rest at PPL Park. Although NYCFC ranks last in the Eastern Conference, they had a respectable 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo (4-5-5) this past weekend and tied the Union 1-1 as well back on April 16.
“We needed three points at home tonight and it’s going to be game by game,” Curtin said. “Obviously now we’ll focus on NYCFC which is still a dangerous team. Yes we’ll have played on a Wednesday but I think if we handle our recovery I think that we can bounce back quickly.”
Saturday's match will air at 7 p.m. on The Comcast Network.