After perhaps one of the toughest two-month stretches the Philadelphia Union has ever had late in the season, they escaped with a 5-3-1 record. They took on MLS powerhouses LAFC and Atlanta United FC along with notable Eastern Conference foes like NYRB and DC United followed with a midweek cross-country road trip to San Jose and a short flight to Columbus. Now Philadelphia has just one game left.
“The importance of three points is huge this weekend,” said Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin yesterday. Curtin is on the verge of finishing out the best season in franchise history with an opportunity to increase a franchise record for points in a single season to 58 with a win Sunday.
But to get that W, Curtin will rely once more on his team’s improved roster depth. Team captain Alejandro Bedoya suffered a quad injury, “a grade 1 plus a little bit more,” to be exact of Bedoya’s first-career muscle strain. “It’s his first muscle injury that he’s ever had in his career which is pretty remarkable,” said Curtin.
The likelihood Bedoya is able to bounce back and play Sunday is very slim at the moment but his return is expected by the time Philadelphia are hosting their second-ever MLS Cup Playoff match in a few weeks’ time. But first, Decision Day awaits Philadelphia and the rest of the MLS clubs either fighting for the final spot in the playoffs or a chance to increase their seeding before all is said and done.
Sunday at 4 PM all matches kick off on the final week of MLS play. Philadelphia host NYCFC, a team that already solidified their spot as first in the Eastern Conference while clinching a coveted home-field advantage throughout. The road to the Cup Final in the Eastern Conference will have to go through NYCFC on their own turf.
Philadelphia is solely focused on finishing out this current campaign on a positive note though. They’re much less interested in a potential playoff match-up against NYCFC. Instead, all eyes are on Sunday for Curtin and his group.
“It’s an important game for us to end what’s been a very good regular season the right way with three points in front of our great fans,” said Curtin. “Still a lot to be determined in terms of [playoff] seeding so we’ll push for three points.”
In terms of who exactly will earn the starting honors for Curtin is up in the air. With Bedoya doubtful to suit up, a large set of boots are to be filled in the midfield. The question becomes, who steps up?
It’s been a common theme for Philadelphia. They’ve been bitten by the injury bug a number of times but their depth has bailed them out enough to avoid severe consequences of those pesky injuries.
Jamiro Monteiro and Haris Medunjanin will need to elevate their play. Brenden Aaronson, fresh off receiving news of his USMNT call-up, should be expected to start and he’ll need to be laser-focused and hope to make an impact early.
“We’re still talking about which lineup and which formation is best against NYCFC,” said Curtin.
Union fans may not be certain which players will feature Sunday but they most definitely know that three points are the expectation Sunday. Anything less will leave a lingering sour taste in everyone’s mouths while the playoffs creep closer. It’s three points or bust for Philadelphia Sunday.
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Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports