The Union (8-14-6) can’t worry about the sixth-place Montreal Impact (9-11-4) this week. They can’t worry about the teams below them (Orlando City SC, New York City FC, Chicago Fire) in the standings right now. They can’t worry about the fact that they’ve fielded 31 different lineups this season and that at any given moment they could be playing with a new teammate beside them.
The Union need to worry about themselves. They need to worry about the Columbus Crew (11-9-8) this weekend and they need to worry about the six games remaining in the regular season. They sit just one point out of the final playoff spot in the East and things aren’t going to get any easier for Philly’s blue and gold.
“Sometimes guys are injured, some guys are with national teams, different things have happened this year - some off the field stuff - it’s been challenging,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “But, like I said before, it’s how you finish the season, that’s what people remember, and our guys still have an opportunity to finish strong with the Open Cup final and, obviously, the six games remaining.”
Another factor going against the Union in recent months have been their regular season play at home. They haven’t won a home game since July 11, a 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers. They’ve gone a winless 0-2-1 in the three games since. They’ll have the chance to buck that trend against the Crew this weekend.
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“It’s difficult to really put a finger on it,” Curtin said, on the team’s play at home. “Again, yes, you should win your home games, and going on the road is, obviously, much more difficult but I’m not stating anything that everybody didn’t already know. No one thing I can really point to. We have three [home games] and three [road games] left, so I don’t care how the wins come. We have to win.”
The Crew were handed a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas this past weekend, while losing top defender Gaston Sauro to a head injury. They’re 1-1-0 against the Union this season, their last win coming on April 25.
In their last meeting on June 3, the Union thumped the Crew to a final of 3-0 in arguably their best performance of the season. Union forward C.J. Sapong was disruptive and active on his way to a goal and an assist in the contest. They’ll need the very best from Sapong on Saturday against an offensively potent Crew team that is tied for second in the MLS in scoring with 45 goals on the year.
“We want to start to press with C.J. [Sapong],” Curtin said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to all 11 guys being on the same page. With Columbus, they’re a team that baits you into high pressing and then can kind of expose you if you’re a step late — if one guy’s a step late there’s sort of a domino effect. … The best way to approach Columbus, even though it’s on our home field, might be to have the mindset of making them really break us down, as opposed to flying out at them and playing into their strengths.”
Saturday’s match against the Crew will air at 7 p.m. on The Comcast Network.