Despite suffering a 3-1 setback at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday to Toronto FC (10-7-7), the Union (9-9-7) are still firmly entrenched in Eastern Conference playoff position in fourth place (34 points) with just nine matches left to play.
Everyone on the team knows what’s at stake. They can’t afford to miss points, especially at home where they’ve lost just three matches all season.
“Every point matters, you can see how tight it is in both conferences, so it will go down to the wire, but we have a group that is still playing well, and playing good soccer,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “It needs to continue in the big games against a top team like Toronto. We’ve got a good barometer for where we are at, and what we still need to improve on, and I think we still learned a lot tonight about different guys, so nine games left and we are going to be right in the thick of this thing until the end.”
Newly acquired Union midfielder and USMNT member Alejandro Bedoya suited up for his first home game on Saturday and was greeted with large cheers from the Union faithful in attendance. He’ll be under a big microscope the rest of the year, but Curtin has been very impressed with Bedoya’s play through two games.
“Bedoya was excellent,” Curtin said. “He was fine. He connected things, it’s unfortunate that we had to adjust and change just being down a goal, a couple goals, to tweak it in a way that we didn’t really want to in that you’re scrambling a bit to throw bodies forward, attacking guys on the field. … You can see the relationship between Bedoya and [Union midfielder Tranquillo] Barnetta getting better and better. Again second game, I didn’t want to push Alejandro 90 minutes, but the way that we had to sub and scramble, he handled it fine.”
For just the second year, the top six teams in each conference make the playoffs, twelve teams in total. The first and second seeds of each conference receive a bye, while the third seed hosts the sixth seed and the fourth seed hosts the fifth seed.
For how good the Union have been at home (7-3-3) compared to away (2-6-4) this season, finishing the season as the fourth seed or higher will have a large impact on their playoff success.
“I like my team, I don’t think we need to change a lot,” Curtin said. “I still believe in what we’re doing, the players still believe in what they are doing. So again, there are going to be highs and lows and we just need to keep pushing, I believe now we have nine games left, four at home, five on the road and it’s going to be tough but it’s tough for everybody right now.”
The Union have a busy week ahead of them. They face the Columbus Crew (4-8-11) on the road on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. before returning home on Saturday to face Sporting KC (11-11-5) at 7 p.m. Both matches will air on the Comcast Network.