The Union have really turned a rather drowning season into something worth paying attention to. Whether it is the genius of Jim Curtin or the freedom to play as they please, the Philadelphia Union are in a position to not only return to the playoffs, but to also snag a piece of hardware on their way to the party. The Union are just a point out of the 5th seed in East and have started to score goals at a blistering pace.
Is this the season the Union return to the playoffs after a brief appearance in 2011?
The Brotherly Game writers weigh in:
Nicholas Youngstein - They're playing like one right now, and it will allow them to sneak into the 5th spot.
Heather Reppert - If Maidana can become healthy and be a starter again, they are absolutely in playoff contention. Nogs cannot fill in for the number 10 role and desperately needs to play in tandem with Maidana for his skills to be used the most efficiently. With Valdes in the backline we are not as worried about defensive blunders. Overall, I am very optimistic.
Barry Evans - The addition of Valdes and change of style to suit the players we have had made a huge difference to the team. Quality wise, they are a playoff caliber team. With the change in coach, they are playing to the level they can do, and should be able to build on the favorable schedule along with confidence to get into the playoffs. Of course, a lot also depends how much they put into winning the US Open Cup. That home game against the Red Bulls may be very important in the playoff race, but could mean losing the final.
Eugene Rupinski - I'm cautiously optimistic about the chances. The club has been on fire since the World Cup break, and I believe they'll do their part to make the playoffs. I am afraid they're going to wind up needing help down the stretch, but I think we should all be very proud of the second half of the season the club has turned in (at least this far).
JC Escobar - I've said for over a year that anybody other than Hackworth would have gotten us in the playoffs last year. The east is a very weak conference. So, are the Union contenders? I believe they are. Can they make the playoffs? As previously stated, they control their own destiny, 6 out of 9 games at home makes it a lot easier.
Justin F. - They are 7th in the conference in points per game and have a bit of ground to make up. But as JC mentioned, six of their last nine games are at home, and they are playing some of their best soccer in franchise history. My fear from a few months ago was that Hackworth's 2014 had sent them in a hole too deep. The Union have done a great job of digging out of it, but it remains to be seen if they can complete the job because they have not done so yet. They cannot afford many more stumbles.
John Rossi - This is easily the best side the Union have ever assembled, and Jim Curtin has them playing like it. All of their remaining games are against fellow Eastern Conference clubs. Despite their recent great play, they're still a few points back on teams who have played fewer games. I love this season's squad, but I think they're going to come up short. New England looks like a contender, Columbus is playing great soccer, and Toronto is three points up with two games in hand. Unless the Union can get two wins against the Canadian team, they'll miss out in what will be a very close race.
Jared Young - Hard to add anything to what already been said. Under Curtin the team has been playing playoff quality soccer. But are there enough games left to dig out of the hole? The good news is they are playing most of the teams they have to catch so we will really find out if this team has what it takes or not. It's all before them.
It what could have been a dismal season, but seemingly out of the blue the Philadelphia Union have jumped into a tight playoff race with vigor. They lead the Eastern Conference in goals scored (I refuse to acknowledge the goals against statistic at this time). They have gone 8-3-2 in all competitions since Jim Curtin has taken over. With the return of Cristian Maidana, the Union will be the healthiest they have been all season.
Does all of this mean anything? As Justin pointed out, the Union are 7th in the East in points acquired per game (a measly 1.2). In response, JC points out that 6 of the 9 remaining games are at home a sudden fortress for Philadelphia. Now in the last 9 league matches the Union have gotten 1.56 points per game which is better than every team in the East besides Sporting Kansas City and DC United.
The Union are playing some of their best soccer I've personally ever seen and really have momentum heading into this final stretch. Their remaining matches are against all Eastern opponents (TOR, @TOR, NYRB, HOU, @DCU, CHI, COL, SKC, @COL). The Union play New York, DC United, and Sporting during a week when those teams play in the CONCACAF Champions League (outlined here). Things look good for Philadelphia, but that's why they play the game. They schedule they've drawn is quite lucky, but will their play receive the same fortunes?
So you have to ask yourself, do the U feel lucky, punk?
Let us know how lucky you feel in the comments below!