The latest win for Philadelphia Union could be a sign of playoff promise

Following a significant 2-0 home win against a top club in New York City FC, the Philadelphia Union control their own destiny with 10 league matches remaining. Borek Dockal picked up his 11th and 12th assists of the season and goals from Cory Burke and Ilsinho granted the win. Dockal is now third in MLS with 12 assists in league play.

Philadelphia Union celebrate Ilsinho’s goal that finished off NYCFC this past Saturday. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Post-match Saturday night, a prideful Jim Curtin took the podium following his teams big win. It was a result that his players were well deserving of, as fans were delighted to see their team finally knock off a top MLS club. Too many times throughout the past few seasons – including earlier this year – Curtin’s squad struggled to earn meaningful results against teams above them in the table. Not Saturday night though.

High intensity from start to finish

“An important win for us,” said Curtin during his opening statement. “In a lot of ways before the game we challenged the group to raise their level. They’re starting to ask a lot of each other, which is powerful,” said Curtin.

That power was easily tangible throughout Talen Energy Stadium Saturday night as fans and the players on the field created an electric atmosphere for soccer. The first 15 minutes of the match was anything but tame.

“We knew that this game would be against the strongest opponent that we’ve played in quite some time and it would be a real challenge for us to raise our intensity, our focus, our discipline, our pressing. I thought the guys executed exactly what we asked of them,” said Curtin.

Throughout all 90+ minutes of play Saturday, Philadelphia made less than a handful of glaring mistakes. Their focus levels all over the field were at all-time highs and that’s not so much hyperbole as it is observation. They didn’t allow a goal and they even managed to frustrate NYCFC late in the second half with pinpoint passing.

One of those mistakes came within the first five minutes of play as both Philadelphia center backs, Auston Trusty and Jack Elliot, were burnt on a silky offensive sequence from NYCFC. David Villa and Trusty ended up in a foot race for the ball which allowed Maximiliano Moralez to rip a great look on goal. Thankfully for Philadelphia, Andre Blake was up to the task as he parried away the bending shot.

Defensive mistakes like those were few and far between though. And it always helps to have one of the best keepers in the league as the last man back. Blake now has 91 saves on the year, third in MLS.

“A complete team effort,” said Curtin. “And the way that our guys passed the ball too. I think there’s something to be said about that… there’s a sequence in the second half where it almost leads to a goal… eight or nine one-touch passes where we made it hard on New York City to chase the ball and they got a little frustrated towards the end of the game,” Curtin said.

Mistakes Were Minimized

As for the mistakes? Well, they happen in soccer just like they do in life. It’s all a part of the game. And as a former center back himself, Curtin understands just how impactful the little things like how you respond to mistakes are throughout the course of 90 minutes.

“Soccer is a game of mistakes, whether it’s the Premier League, Germany, the Italian League… whatever it is there’s tons of mistakes throughout the course of 90 minutes. How you react to those mistakes is most important and our guys were really up to that tonight to win it back quickly,” said Curtin.

The mistakes Curtin mentions were the brief moments throughout the match where Philadelphia lost possession in the midfield. Whether it be a sloppy touch or an errant pass, Philadelphia did turn it over a decent number of times. However, to mitigate the negativity that stems from those turnovers, players responded quickly by swarming NYCFC players whenever the ball was lost. Their reactions were swift and decisive when winning the ball back which made things very difficult for NYCFC, especially in the second half.

A Winning Mindset

Perhaps that quick thinking and high energized play is a result of a new mindset throughout the locker room. A mindset that maybe even is starting to exude confidence in players’ abilities and the team’s overall chances at success when all is said in done. Maybe even, players inside the locker room are starting to truly understand that their destiny is in their hands.

It’s been said before. It’ll be said again. Philadelphia control their fate. With 10 matches left, five at home and five away, the Union are primed to make a significant playoff push.

“We’ve preached how we control our own destiny and you never want that to slip up in this league because it can change fast,” said Curtin. “To be a special group now, to get a home playoff game… that is ultimately, long-term the goal, you have to win games like this against top teams,” Curtin said post-match Saturday.

The win over NYCFC is easily the most significant victory of the season to date. To not only win but to blank the fourth highest scoring team in MLS should serve as a sturdy bump to team morale as they approach their next matchup against another Eastern Conference foe New England Revolution this Saturday.

The matchup against New England is yet another pivotal fixture for the Union. New England sits in 7th place in the Eastern Conference table with 29 points. At fifth place with 33 points, Philadelphia are expected to handle business against the Revs. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t.

With 10 matches left, Philadelphia faces Eastern Conference foes the next four matches. If they continue their winning ways and extend their three-match win streak a bit further, playoff soccer could return to Chester.

“We’re going to be brave and we’re going to go for it,” said Curtin Saturday night. “We still have a long way to go, lot of season left. 10 games, five at home, five away. We have to take points.”

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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

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