On the final day of the MLS regular season, the Union blew out Toronto FC 4-0. The 2022 Union squad broke records left and right and solidified themselves as a top-two team in MLS; however, ending this season with no trophies would be a letdown and possibly a waste of a talented roster. Their big win on Decision Day solidified the top seed in the eastern conference for Philly, could it be a building block for postseason success?
Another playoff run for the Union?
Philadelphia has made the playoffs now five seasons in a row. Their success in the playoffs though has been fleeting. First-match exits in 2018 and 2020, one lone win in 2019, and a covid doomed end in the conference final in 2021 have been the recent history of Philadelphia in the playoffs. 2022 has felt different in the regular season, and now Philly is hoping that that feeling will move with them to the postseason.
This team is built for a playoff run. They have the best goalkeeper in MLS, Andre Blake who had 15 shutouts in 2022. Their defense in front of that goalkeeper is elite too, allowing only 26 goals; that’s 0.76 goals allowed per match which is the second lowest in MLS history, and best in a 34-match season. Not only is the defense good, but the attack is also. Philly scored 72 goals this season. This smashes their goals-for record and was six goals better than the next highest-scoring team (LAFC with 66) in the league.
They say defense wins championships, that’s the Union’s backbone, but their attack is also the best in the league. This team is scary coming into the 2022 playoffs, and they’ll play the majority of their games at home, which is another huge advantage for Philly.
The east runs through Philly
The east runs through Philly thanks to their Decision Day blowout, which could lead to a first-ever MLS Cup appearance! This team is undefeated at home in 2022; they’re the only team to not lose on their home field in the 17 matches played at home in the regular season. Philly has 12 wins and five draws at home in 2022; they posted a goal differential of +40, scoring 49 goals and allowing only nine! Now as the top seed in the east, they’ll look to keep this amazing home form en route to potentially hosting MLS Cup.
If you’re thinking, but the Union choked away their 1-seed back in 2020, why is this team different? The answer lies in the collected belief this team has. In 2020, the Union went through a shortened covid season and was the best team in the regular season. They went on to lift the Supporters Shield, giving the club its first-ever trophy near the end of the regular season. Philly then had two weeks off before their first playoff match. The Union came in cold against a team they had beaten four times that season (New England) and had their worst performance of the season in a win-or-go-home match to flame out of the playoffs. This year will be different than that lone example.
Philly has 10 days off from their Decision Day game to their playoff match. They’ll take on the winner of New York Red Bulls vs FC Cincinnati next Thursday, October 20th, at 8:00 pm ET. This needed bit of rest coupled with the Union finishing second in the Supporters Shield race could be just what is needed to push for MLS Cup.
A little extra motivation
Even though the Union missed out on winning the 2022 Supporters Shield because of some rough games on the road on crappy turf, Philly they won’t have to worry much about playing away from home in the playoffs. With home-field advantage and missing out on the Shield, the focus is clear for Philly; It’s MLS Cup or bust.
Before the 2022 season, Sporting Director Ernst Tanner talked about this being the year that the Union could compete for MLS Cup. He was right, and this team can now see how close they are to their end goal. Philly is three wins away from hoisting MLS Cup. If they win the two eastern conference playoff matches, and LAFC fails to make the final, then the Union will host MLS Cup!
The goal of reaching and winning MLS Cup has been attainable all season, and now that it’s time for the playoffs Philly can be laser-focused on achieving their goal. Time will tell if they can realize this goal, but if they can play their style of soccer on their home field in front of their home fans, then maybe we’ll see a champion of MLS in Philadelphia in 2022!
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Mandatory Credit: Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire