One word describes the Philadelphia Union as they head into the rest of the 2020 regular season: focused.
Despite concerns facing the possibility of players contracting COVID-19, the challenge of playing in empty stadiums, and questions regarding upcoming trades, Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie and Andre Blake are ready to go.
The three players spoke to media members on Thursday afternoon and each expressed that while they understood the many worries behind the upcoming games, they were just looking to take each one a match at a time and do what it takes to win.
“I mean for the team I think the confidence is high right now,” Aaronson said. “Off the Portland game even though we lost I still think that we had a lot of good chances and I still think confidence is really high in the group.”
For McKenzie, the Union’s key to success is staying grounded and leaving it all out on the pitch. “I think it’s just a matter of, you know, understanding that it always going each game with that chip on our shoulder, you know we always talk about you know putting the excuses out the window; going into each matchup ready to battle for the 90 minutes.”
Many are worried about the possibility of players contracting the coronavirus, and while fans won’t be in the stadium while the Union play, other teams will host fans and the team will still have to worry about travel.
However, as McKenzie says, the best that Philadelphia can do right now is keep themselves safe and hope that their opponents do the same.
“It ultimately comes down to handling our duty off the field,” he said. “Now we just have to, you know, trust in the fact that our opponents are going to try and do the same to the best of their ability, so that we can continue to play games together, going on to the next aspect of the season.”
Neither Philadelphia nor any or their opponents will have fans in their stadiums during play, which means that players will be playing in silent stadiums.
While teams at the MLS is Back tournament played without fans, the atmosphere of a different stadium will contrast that of a simple field without stands. However, as Blake noted, the Union will still come out and play their game, with or without their fans in attendance.
“I guess it’s probably gonna feel more like a legit preseason game,” he said. “Once we get out there you know all the competitiveness is gonna come out. It’s always good really our fans you know it’s a great atmosphere, but we’re gonna have to do what we have to do.”
The Union play their next match in Foxborough, Massachusetts on August 20 in the first in a set of six matches for Phase 1 of the return to the regular season.