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Union Stat Check: Continued Optimism In the Home Stretch

USA TODAY Sports

While a blowout loss in New England threw off what looked to be an impressive run of form for the Philadelphia Union defense, there are many reasons to remain hopeful that the team is playoff-bound.

It is September.  School is back in session, the National Football League is poised to regain control of the airways, most European leagues are in full swing, and the Philadelphia Union have only been a win or two out of first place in the Eastern Conference for the past several weeks.

The Union have lost only three games since May.  Only Real Salt Lake has matched that feat over the past three months.  The boys in blue have posted 5 shutouts in their last 7 games against Portland Timbers, New York Red Bulls, Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps, and D.C. United (the only toothless team in the bunch).  Despite Jack McInerney's extended scoring drought, only 5 teams have scored more goals than Philly this season, and one has played an extra game.  The Eastern Conference has fallen off a bit in the Supporters' Shield race, but those writing Union playoff chances off are missing the big picture.

It has not been pretty.  This is not a roster (especially in the midfield) any fan would assemble in his or her dreams.  But to paraphrase Ray Hudson's call referring to Fabio Cannavaro's performance a few years back - while the squad has run around the field like a three-legged giraffe, it's been effective.

The Philadelphia Union currently stand on 39 points with 21 more available in the 7 games remaining, including two contests against the worst teams in the league.  Let's say Philly musters just 9 points through the rest of the season (matching the worst point total taken from any 7 consecutive games all year) to end on 48 points.  In order to miss the playoffs, two of these four teams will need to do the following:

New England Revolution:  earn at least 12 out of 18 possible points vs CHI, DC, HOU, NY, CLB, CLB
* 3 games on the road, team has 4 road wins so far this season

Houston Dynamo:  earn at least 12 out of 21 possible points vs PHI, CHV, NE, MTL, KC, NY, DC
* 3 games on the road, team has 3 road wins so far this season
** 2 Concacaf Champions League matches scheduled, each 3 days prior to regular season away game

Chicago Fire:  earn at least 14 out of 24 possible points vs TOR, NE, CLB, MTL, DC, FCD, TOR, NY
* 5 games on the road, team has 2 road wins so far this season

Columbus Crew:  earn at least 17 out of 18 possible points vs MTL, CHI, FCD, KC, NE, NE
* 3 games on the road, team has 3 road wins so far this season

Obviously, each is plausible, but to further challenge teams chasing the Union, they will be fighting each other for those points.  A sweep in either direction of the Crew and Revolution double at the end of the season, for example, would effectively end any remaining playoff aspirations for the loser (while a split would provide the Union with a better cushion).

Heading into the 2013 season, few could have anticipated the playoff race being so tight.  Even fewer would have projected this roster to be anywhere near the top of the Eastern Conference.  Is it really time to fire John Hackworth, lobby for new ownership, waive the entire midfield, and start from scratch?  Or are we so jaded by last year's results (and the Sixers', Phillies', Flyers', and Eagles' most recent seasons) that we are prepared to hit the reset button on anything short of FC Barcelona quality or anyone who doesn't interact with us regularly on Twitter?

Share your thoughts below!

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