Since its inaugural season in 2010, the Philadelphia Union has done a bulk of its damage at home (357 of 551 points) but their road performances this season — even amidst a grueling month of May that has already included two West Coast trips and visits to Nashville and Orlando — are telling yet another story of the team’s continued rise.
Since being eliminated in last year’s Eastern Conference final at home to NYCFC with a lineup decimated by players missing because of Covid-19 health protocols, the Union has taken down both 2021 MLS Cup finalists on the road and added a tricky early season win over CF Montreal at Olympic Stadium.
Through their first six road games of 2022, the Union has already matched their total road wins from 2021 and 2020 and have the most points (11) from their first six games on the road in franchise history. Their previous high was 10 points in their first six road games of 2013.
The three road wins were also Union firsts at Olympic Stadium in Montreal (their first ever game there), Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Providence Park in Portland.
“They’ve been against really good teams in really hard places to go,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said at his weekly press conference on Thursday. “To be honest this year Montreal has been one of the best teams in the league so that win looks maybe even bigger than it did at the time. Winning in their place in that old old turf stadium was hard. The New York City one where we had so much difficulty in our history here in Philadelphia to win there is brutal, they just don’t lose there. And then to win in Portland, nobody goes there and has an easy time ever. I thought we were fairly comfortable there.”
Saturday’s game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough (Kickoff 7:30 p.m. on PHL17/PhiladelphiaUnion.com/ESPN+) gives the Union a chance to add a road win over the Supporters’ Shield holders to their already impressive road resume this season. It will be the Union’s 20th league visit to Foxborough, where they’ve posted a 6-4-4 record.
“Road wins are huge,” Curtin said. “You guys have heard me say the recipe for the playoffs is getting double-digit wins at home and three or four wins on the road. We’ve hit that road benchmark already so I’m happy with how we’re playing. In 13 games played we’ve been beaten once so that means we’re hard to play against.”
The Union’s success on the road so far is part of an interesting early-season trend of sorts. The New York Red Bulls already have posted five road wins and 16 points while FC Cincinnati has four wins and 13 points. Orlando City has three wins and 12 points and CF Montreal three wins and 11 points on the road.
“I don’t have a good answer for the reason behind that,” Curtin said of some of the road records across the conference. “But it’s certainly a trend we have our eyes on.”
The Union’s best road seasons were in 2018 and 2019 when they posted six wins and 21 points away from home in back-to-back seasons. Over the pandemic-impacted seasons of 2020 and 2021 they posted just three wins in each with 18 total points last season and 13 points in the 23-game 2020 season.
“If there was ever a year where you thought that that number would change really this drastically it would have been during Covid when the stadiums were empty,” Curtin said.
Gillette Stadium will be the first of three NFL venues the Union are playing in this season with games still to play at Soldier Field in Chicago and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. This after completing an unofficial tour of current and former baseball stadiums (even BMO Field where they lost is on the site of the Blue Jays’ old stadium).
With May almost in the rearview mirror and a three-week international break coming soon, Revs away could end up factoring into another special season for the Union as games against the Revs did when the Union beat them three times (a fourth time in MLS is Back Round of 16) and drew once in four meetings en route to the 2020 Supporters’ Shield.
“We want to end going into this international break the right way,” Curtin said.