The Union put together one of their most complete performances of the season on Saturday, defeating the Portland Timbers (9-7-4) 3-0 and continuing their recent surge of good play while tightening the Eastern Conference standings.
The Union (6-10-4) have gone 8-3-1 in all competitive matches since May 24. They were 2-7-3 in the matches which preceded their upward trend. They’ll face the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (Toronto FC, July 18; New York Red Bulls, July 21; D.C. United, July 26) to round out July with playoff implications most definitely on the line.
“Right now I think that you can see a confident team,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “Every good team I’ve ever been on in my life as a player had some hard moments together before they won anything together. [You’re] starting to see a group that believes in each other and again, it is one game so I don’t want to get too high but it was a very good game.”
The Union have made the playoffs just once as a franchise, in 2011. The organization and its fans are desperate to make it back and it’s been on everyone’s minds entering every season since. Currently, the Union sit just two points out of a playoff spot in seventh place with 22 points. Four teams ahead of them are tied for third place with 24 points.
Curtin knows the pressure is mounting and he’s doing everything he can to keep the team’s mindset and preparation level high during this crucial part of the season.
“We have to do this over and over and over,” said Curtin. “We have fourteen [matches] left and every one, you need to grab points. You can see some of the results tonight. It’s getting tighter and tighter in the East which is crazy but I’m happy with the guys. … It’s trending upwards but at the same time I’ve been around this league long enough to know that the second you start to feel good or comfortable is when you get kicked in the teeth. It’s been my mentality since preseason; never too high, never too low.”
Another good sign for the Union was seeing forward Andrew Wenger finally find the back of the net for his first goal of the season. Wenger, who notched the third most goals on the team last season with six, has struggled to find his groove on offense this season. But, his beautiful strike from outside of the box to put the Union up 1-0 midway through the second half on Saturday should give him some confidence and relief moving forward.
“There’s been good days and bad days,” said Wenger. “There’s probably been a few more bad than good but that’s the life of a soccer player, athlete, someone my age, or really anyone in life. You have good days and bad days you just try to move forward.”
Saturday’s match against Toronto FC will air at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.