June has been a big month for soccer in the city of Philadelphia. As the United States Men’s National Team won Group A and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario Saturday in a 1-0 win over Paraguay at Lincoln Financial Field, the Union (6-3-5) return to regular season action atop the Eastern Conference (23 points) on Saturday against New York City FC (4-5-6).
The Union entered June on a high note, topping the Columbus Crew (3-5-5), 3-2, on the first of the month to give themselves a little breathing room in first place entering the break. They know how important stretching that gap is moving forward.
“You can see a group of guys that push, aren’t scared, give every ounce of energy, represent the city of Philadelphia and are playing pretty good soccer right now,” manager Jim Curtin said, following the Union’s win over Columbus. “I’m a big believer in the table tells the truth. At the end of the day we’re where we are because we put a lot into it. It is still tight in the East. It’s going be tight the whole year. So, we’re not satisfied. We’ll continue to push.”
The story all season has been the sensational play of the rookies on the team. Against Columbus, it was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Fabian Herbers, who netted his first career goal on a beautiful strike to the upper 90 of the net to solidify the Union victory. Curtin talked about Herbers’ talent following the win.
“He has a knack for running, losing his center back, being in the right spot at the right time,” Curtin said. “So, he gets slipped in there on his weaker foot to have the composure to know that the center back’s only play there is to slide, he cuts it back to his strong foot and puts it in a pretty good spot [chuckles], to say the least. So, he has things that I can’t teach. I don’t take credit for any of that, that’s for sure. He is special around the goal.”
The Union have also kept their unbeaten streak alive. The team has gone 3-0-5 in its past eight matches and will face the team who started it all in their next match. Back on April 23, the Union bested New York City FC, 2-0, to push the team into first place in the East. Fifty-six days will have passed when the two square off on Saturday.
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“We are a team, I think by the true sense of the word we are a team,” Curtin said. “I’ve said it before, we came out today on the field, everybody is asking now, ‘Who is the leader of this group?’ Or, ‘When the game gets tough, who is your guy that steps up?’ I think I have 11 guys that will lead, and 11 guys that will step up, when the game starts.”
Saturday’s match against New York City FC will be played on the road at Yankee Stadium. The game will air at 1 p.m. on the Comcast Network.