If you’re wondering why the Philadelphia Union are off this weekend and off again for the international break a week after hosting Columbus Crew SC on the 17th, the CONCACAF Champions League is to blame.
The Union were originally scheduled to visit Seattle Sounders this weekend, but the game was moved to September to allow Seattle the rest ahead of a trip to Mexico for a quarterfinal second leg match with Chivas Guadalajara on Wednesday. Seattle leads 1-0 after the first leg at home.
“The league found it most beneficial for them to have an opportunity in the Champions League was to have this weekend off,” head coach Jim Curtin said during his Thursday press conference. “Obviously that affects us but at the same time it’s good for Seattle to get a result against Chivas last night 1-0. It’s good for them and good for the league.”
Prior to the season-opening win against New England Revolution, Curtin said the week off would provide for more time to integrate new loan signing Borek Dockal into the team. But after the 2-0 win, he seemed less excited about having the week off.
“It’s a challenge because you know you want to get in a rhythm, you want to get momentum, obviously we came off a pretty good performance so you want to play again but at the same time you understand the importance of an MLS team winning Champions League,” Curtin said. “It’s something that’s never been done. Obviously Mexico has had a pretty strong stranglehold on this competition.”
Looking ahead to September, the change will make an already challenging stretch of games even tougher for the Union. The Union will have to travel to Seattle for a Wednesday game on the 19th, four days after hosting Sporting Kansas City at home. They will then complete a three-game road trip the following Saturday in Columbus.
That’s a journey of nearly 6,000 miles over a 10-day stretch in one of the most crucial times of the season. It could end up being the difference between making the playoffs or ending the season at Yankee Stadium on October 28.
For now, the Sounders are one of three MLS teams still in the Champions League. New York Red Bulls return home Tuesday up 2-0 over Club Tijuana while Toronto FC travel to face Tigres UANL up 2-1 on aggregate.
Since they’re off this weekend, Curtin said the starters will be scrimmaging Bethlehem Steel and the reserves will get a run out with Steel in a friendly with New York Red Bulls 2 on Saturday at Power Training Complex.