The Philadelphia Union will play host to the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night in what will hopefully be played in front of a jam-packed, newly rebranded Subaru Park. Philadelphia will hope to build on the many positives from their recent 3-3 draw at LAFC during their home opener.
There’s nothing quite like facing the best team in the league during the opening weeks of the season. There’s also nothing quite like scoring three highly impressive goals while scrapping and clawing for 90+ minutes in hostile enemy territory.
Yet, that’s exactly what Philadelphia did last Sunday night as most people on the East Coast were sound asleep in preparation for a new work-week.
They traveled to the dreaded Banc of California Stadium and held their own while forcing the rest of MLS to take notice. And the attention they garnered league-wide may be one major source of confidence for Head Coach Jim Curtin and his young team.
National MLS pundits were weighing in on Philadelphia and their performance against LAFC. It almost seems like the narrative that has haunted the franchise for the better part of the last decade is slowing fading away.
That narrative that routinely suggested Philadelphia is owned by those with shallow pockets and a less than admirable desire to win. That narrative seems to be lifting off the shoulders of Curtin and Union fans alike.
And perhaps the players themselves are feeding off the positive energy around their club at such an early stage of the season. The match at LAFC could potentially be one of those moments that resonates with players in the locker room for the remainder of the season.
“I’m incredibly proud of my players,” said Curtin after the 3-3 draw Sunday night. “It’s a kind of a win [though he meant draw] that can bring belief to a team. We went toe-to-toe with them… I think a draw was a fair result.”
Curtin slipped up a bit during his post-game presser and used the word win momentarily. But in some ways, avoiding a second straight loss to open the 2020 campaign all while providing the most entertaining match of MLS play so far against MLS’ best kind of seems like a win.
“Again, I couldn’t be more proud of the players. Not only for the work that they put but for the soccer they played,” said Curtin post-game. “It’s an exciting young team and to look out on the field with the veterans closing things out and to have five homegrown players out on the field at this early stage in the season is something that we’re proud of as well.”
For now, Philadelphia will continue preparing for a highly anticipated match this Saturday night. Philadelphia soccer fans have waited for a home match for just about five months now, dating back to October 20th of last year in what was the most exciting win in club history.
Though they’ll be without a couple of starters in centerback Mark McKenzie and attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson to U-23 USMNT Olympic Qualifying, they shouldn’t skip a beat considering the depth on the roster is solid yet again this season.
Expect Jack Elliott to fill in for McKenzie. The replacement for Aaronson is a bit more of a question mark. Will Curtin reward fellow youngster Anthony Fontana with a start Saturday? Or will he find other ways to fill Aaronson’s shoes with a tactical change in the midfield?
That decision is yet to be made, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on as Philadelphia hopes to continue the positive momentum at home this weekend.
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Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.