The holiday festivities have come and gone in Philadelphia. While the city was celebrating with mesmerizing fireworks exploding over the skies this past week, the Union were in disbelief after they let yet another game get away. The club couldn't muster an ounce of offense in a 1-0 loss to Houston last Saturday.
After a disheartening 2-2 tie to FC Dallas in late stoppage time on June 29, the Union again couldn't hold the lead late in a 2-2 tie to Real Salt Lake on an penalty kick in extra time on July 3.
Despite the setbacks, the Union sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. However, they have settled for just two points in the past three matches.
Defensive midfielder Amobi Okugo tried to make sense of it.
"It's tough to not be able to capitalize and get some points, especially in the game at home against Dallas," said Okugo. "We had three points in our grasp and, unfortunately, we gave up a soft goal late. The Eastern Conference is so tight this year, but in the past we've been able to pick ourselves up after a rough stretch and get some wins, and I'm confident we can do that now."
Okugo, along with Jack McInerney, is considered one of the Union's most promising young players. Just last year, ESPN rated him as the eighth-best soccer player in America under the age of 21. In McInerney's three-match absence to play in July's CONCACAF Gold Cup, Okugo has stepped up his intensity.
"It feels good to be recognized for your talents," said Okugo, of ESPN's honor. "I'm just trying to continue to develop as a player and continue to do the things that have gotten me this far. It's easier to do that as a player when your team is doing well and things are going according to plan, and the Union has been that team for me."
Okugo, McInerney and manager John Hackworth have a long history together stemming from the Team USA U-20 national team.
"We both were in the U-20 program with coach [John] Hackworth and we both have a strong background in soccer," said Okugo. "The first year on the Union was both kind of tough on us in terms of playing time, but the change of atmosphere with coach Hack has given us a lot of confidence. He puts a lot of faith in us and we just try to repay him on the field. Jack especially has done that this year."
The Union will try to get on track Friday when they take on Chivas USA at 7:30 p.m. on The Comcast Network.