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The road ahead

Not so long ago we were looking at the Union at the season’s mid-point. Five game’s later and things look a lot less rosy than they did then.

At the season’s midpoint, the 2–2 draw with DC, the Union were 7–4–6. Since then, the Union have one win, one loss and three draws for a 8–5–9 record. Jordan Harvey, Carlos Ruiz and Thorne Holder are no longer on the roster, freeing up two international spots and, hopefully, bringing in some substantial cash to use in the summer transfer window. Despite persistent rumors of possible new signings, none have been announced with the transfer window due to close in just a few days on Sunday, August 14.

The season hasn’t gone down the tubes—the Union are in second place within easy striking distance of claiming first place again—but something of the buoyant optimism that characterized so much of the first half of the season is gone. Games that fell like they would have been won earlier in season are now ending as ties. And the Union’s problems in finding the back of the net seem no closer to being emphatically resolved.

Whatever the Union roster looks like next week, the remaining twelve games will determine whether the 2011 season was one of promise fulfilled or promise undelivered.

What’s immediately ahead

Over the next twelve games, the Union will face Eastern Conference teams seven times. Four of those games will be at home, three on the road. Five of the remaining twelve games will be against Western Conference teams, two at home and three on the road.

The next two games will be critical for the Union’s prospects. On Saturday, the Union host Dallas, in second place in the Western Conference and unbeaten in four games with a 4–4–3 road record. When the Union played Dallas away in May, they lost 2–0. Last year’s meeting at the Linc ended with Danny Mwanga’s dramatic stoppage time goal.

After Dallas at home, the Union travel to Columbus. Currently in first place in the East, this will be the first of two meetings in four weeks. While Columbus has stumbled in recent matches, they have largely been on the ascendant and it is critical that the Union get points from these matches. It will be a heavy task: last year Columbus defeated the Union home and away by the combined score of 5–2.

Against the East

Three of the Union’s home games against Eastern Conference opposition are against teams that are currently in the bottom three spots of the table. The Union cannot afford losses or draws when New England, DC and Toronto come to town, teams from which they secured seven points in road games earlier in the season, scoring 11 goals to four.

In addition to Columbus on the road, the Union will face two teams that are currently breathing down the their neck on the Eastern Conference table, the rising Kansas City and the stumbling New York. Whether the Union’s inability to defeat Kansas City at home in June will come back to haunt them remains to be seen. What is certain is that the game against New York–the last game of the season—will be important whatever the playoff standings. Should both teams make the playoffs, there is a good likelihood that they will face each other again little more than a week after the regular season finale.

Against the West

The Union’s record against Western opposition at home so far is 3–1–2. After Saturday’s home match against Dallas, the remaining home game against a team from the West will be against expansion side Portland. It is essential that Philadelphia secure maximum points from the Timbers, the weakest of the Left Coast teams they have to face, if only to avenge the disappointing 1–0 loss in May, the Union’s second loss of the season.

With a 3–4–4 record overall against Western Conference teams, four of the Union’s five losses have come against Western opposition with three of them occurring on the road, where they have a 0–3–2 road record against teams from that Conference. Of the remaining games, the Union will face Western teams on the road that are currently in third, fifth and sixth place. The RSL and Seattle matches should prove particularly difficult with the Union winless against those teams in previous visits. Chivas—where last year the Union registered a 1–1 tie, the first road tie in the club’s history—should present a good opportunity for three points.

Home, away, East or West—the remaining twelve games present both challenges and opportunities for the now struggling Union. How they do in the first two games may prove critical to their prospects over the games that follow.

2 Comments

  1. Not an easy run-in, definately need reinforcements.

  2. Freddy Adu works for me!!!!

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