The Union (11-14-9) are officially in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 as the sixth seed in the East. They’ll kickoff the 2016 MLS playoffs on Wednesday night against third-seeded Toronto FC (14-9-11) in a knockout match.
There’s not much good to draw from the team accomplishment. The Union have gone winless in their past seven matches (0-5-2), including 0-3-0 in their past three. They lost to the top-seeded New York Red Bulls (16-9-9), 2-0, at home on Sunday to end their season in emphatic despair.
“It’s pro sports, so there’s no celebrating when you lose,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “These guys are competitive, they’re hard on themselves. It’s no secret we’ve had a drop in form but we still have a good group.”
The Union players were met with a shower of boos during several points during their match on Sunday. While the Eagles defense put together a smothering performance against the undefeated Minnesota Vikings in South Philly, the Union defense let in two goals just a few miles away in Chester.
“It’s Philadelphia, first and foremost, so booing is popular,” Curtin said. “It’s normal when you don’t win and they’re entitled to boo. It’s difficult for me because I feel bad for the players and the guys that put in such a good year. … If we started horrible and finished strong and we scrape it out at the end, I think it’s a total shift in mindset and everyone’s going nuts today.”
The Union last faced Toronto FC on Sept. 24, coming away with a 1-1 draw. Their only other meeting this season was a 3-1 loss on Aug. 20.
“It’s win or lose and go home,” Union midfielderAlejandroBedoya said. “We’re away in Toronto, I’m sure they’re going to bring their great crowd, great fans, so it’s going to be a hostile environment. Hopefully everybody gets their head on their shoulders and pulls their socks up and is in there for the battle.”
The Union have scored just five goals in their past seven matches (0.71 goals per game). It won’t get any easier against Toronto FC, who finished the season tied for second in the MLS in goals against with just 39 given up on the season.
“It is unfortunate, we are hitting a tough spot right now,” Union goalie Andre Blake said. “As long as all the guys continue to believe that we can play on any given day, when we all go out and do the work, we can play against any team.”
The Union’s quarterfinals match on Wednesday against Toronto FC will air at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.