The Union took it to and beat a surprisingly rotated Nashville SC squad this past weekend. The win meant Philly moved above Nashville into second place in the eastern conference. As the schedules shifts to the final two weeks of the season, the Union has a great opportunity ahead of them. Two wins this week plus a Nashville-Orlando draw this weekend and the Union clinches a playoff spot and the second seed in the east! Could we be celebrating a playoff berth and home playoff game on Halloween night?
Two winnable matches this week
Philly now controls its own destiny in their quest for securing a home playoff game. They can take a huge step forward this week as the Union plays two matches they will be heavily favored to win.
First, they take on Toronto FC up in the six. Toronto is a team plagued by injuries and aging superstars. Toronto has lost 17 games this season and their main issue has lied on their poor defense form. They’ve given up 60 goals this season averaging almost two goals against this season. On top of that, TFC only averages just over one goal a game. This is a huge away match for Philly ahead of an even more winnable match this weekend.
On Halloween night, the Union plays their regular-season home finale against FC Cincinnati. Cincinnati is on pace to be MLS’ worst team for the third year in a row. While former Union GM Chris Albright is now with FC Cincy, it is unlikely that they’ll be able to match what the Union can do in Chester. On Sunday night the Union may already have clinched a playoff spot. Beating lowly Cincinnati would secure an even sweater prize.
Both of these matches are winnable games for Philly. The key will be keeping up that belief and resiliency that this team has shown. That starts tonight against Toronto.
Taking it to Toronto
Philadelphia has the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win at Toronto FC. There are also a few other ways they can clinch, but they involve a draw and other favorable results. It’s a win and in now for the Union.
To do this, the Union will have to take the match to a Toronto side that had a small moral victory last weekend. A late Jozy Altidore goal took points away from their heated rivals CF Montreal. Now coming off of that, they have a chance to spoil another foe’s chances of being successful. Philly will be up for this match; their captain Alejandro Bedoya will see to that.
This Union team was falling fast at the end of the summer. Now they have a huge chance to prove that that was not who this team is. Curtin will likely roll out the same XI in the same formation, minus Andre Blake who is not available due to the loss of his grandmother. This Union side will be expected to push the tempo away from home and win something more than just another three points. Then they can set their sights even higher this weekend.
The opportunity to clinch the two-seed on Halloween
If the Union can win at Toronto then they’ll certainly be able to push for a win at home vs Cincinnati. If they can do that and Nashville and Columbus drop points from one of their two matches this week, then Philly will have the two-spot outright with one match still to play in the regular season. How can this happen?
Philly taking care of their business against the bottom dwellers of the eastern conference is a must obviously, but they’ll also have to hope for a draw in a match this weekend. Nashville and Orlando are chasing the Union for the two-seed. Those two sides play with each other this weekend. A draw in that game coupled with the Union getting six points from Toronto and Cincinnati would see the Union finish the season in second place with a week still to play!
This of course is a best-case scenario, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. The Union has been one of the hottest teams in MLS since their CCL semifinal loss to Club America. Getting these two wins and a bit of luck in the Nashville-Orlando game this weekend might seem farfetched to some, but it could happen. That’s enough for me to be very excited about the potential of this Philadelphia side.
This Union team has taken on a mantra of belief on this stretch run of games. You can see it in their play and the way they hustle. Who’s to say they can’t win these two games, and end up being the two-seed on Halloween night?
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH