Now the work begins for the Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

They’re no longer undefeated, but the Union have nothing to be ashamed of after last weekend’s loss in Toronto.

MLS road points are hard to find and Toronto is a good team. Not the best team, but stronger than any opponent the Union have faced since opening weekend. So losing in their house, controversial calls aside, is not worth getting too worked up about. In fact, it might be a good thing. If nothing else, it removes a certain amount of pressure.

“Undefeated” is a level of perfection few teams are equal too. Which of course is why it’s such a significant achievement, one that Arsenal has been cashing in on for two decades without achieving much of note since.

But it’s also pressure, and pressure that players feel. No one wants to be the reason the streak ends. No defender wants to lose their man on a corner kick and let in the goal, no forward wants to sky the shot that ends the streak. Granted, players will always have pressure on them. But now it is “merely” pressure to perform well. No the pressure of maintaining perfection.

So the unbeaten streak ends. But other than a feel-good story and a stack of points, six games doesn’t amount to much in a thirty-four game MLS season. There’s still twenty eight games left to play, eighty-four points. And some of those games will be against even stronger opposition, like the trip out to LAFC early next month which could put some space between the two teams currently tied on points in the Supporters Shield standings.

And then of course there’s the return of the US Open Cup.

No play in 2020 or 2021 means it’s no longer the longest-running soccer tournament of it’s kind, but it’s still an important part of US soccer history. The third round finished up last night, seeing a few MLS teams knocked out off the competition earlier than ever before and before the Union even started their campaign in the tournament. Historically the Union have taken the US Open Cup seriously, and there’s every reason to assume they’ll do so again when they enter the tournament on May 10 or 11.

That puts more challenging opposition and a more crowded schedule on the calendar for the Union. But the Union that will face that challenge are not the the team that started the season in February. They’ve had time to warm into the season, and they’ve got some of the weight of expectations off their shoulders. It’s a strong position for the team to be in, and they have the potential to take complete advantage of it.


  1. Gruncle Bob says:

    The U play either Miami/Orlando/South Georgia Torrenta in the cup.

    • Philly got placed in Atlantic South division, but DC got placed in Atlantic north division… go figure…

      • There was an asterisk on the US Soccer official website’s chart of the two groups that said Philadelphia Union and New York City FC could not be placed into the same group.
        Why that was the case I have no idea.
        I remember it precisely because there was no explanation and I did not understand.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        It looks like all 8 teams who had byes to the 4th round were placed in different groups.

    • So we have to travel to Orlando after playing at LAFC. Nice job US Open Cup.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I blame MLS more than US Open Cup. I’m pretty sure the US Open Cup dates were released earlier than MLS schedule and there really isn’t anywhere that makes sense to go to just a couple of days after an 11pm game on the west coast. But what can you expect when the league schedules their two cross country trips 2 weeks apart rather than either on consecutive weekends or, better yet, on a weekend and midweek (or vice versa).

      • It just smacks of disrespect to be the team most blatantly placed out of their region to fit their system…Oh well, I’m off to the Jersey shore, the pride of the South Atlantic!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Looks like it’s in Orlando. Given that they play at LAFC 3 or 4 days earlier (and really late at night) and then play PCNY in Chester 3 or 4 days later, hopefully the lineup will either look at lot like the one they used in the COVID game last year or will take advantage of Union II playing in Florida 3 or 4 nights earlier and just use their Union II roster.

        Garber ring leader.

        Union should have been with NYRB, Rochester… but of course not. Too logical… Like New England in Ohio too.

        Poor planning… CLOWNIN’

    • Could it be a seeding thing where NYCFC and Union are top seeds so should not meet in early rounds?

      • Gruncle Bob says:

        Yes. The 8 MLS teams (top 4 in each conference in 2021) who joined this round all “anchor” a 4 team group. On a straight geo segmentation NE/NYC/NYRB/Rochester would be a group, but NE and NYC cannot be together. Hence, some of the peculiar groupings.

  2. Deez Nuggs says:

    Exactly right. And May will be a gauntlet. Back and forth across the country, little rest, tough tough teams. We should all temper our points expectations a bit. Even Miami beat the Sounders, you know?

  3. As I told the youngsters that I coached, we can only play against whomever shows up. Now that Jay Wright is retiring, I will look to Jim Curtin to bring his Villanova attitude to the schedule and coach the boys up the way that they need to be, in order to confront whatever the season brings. The earlier opponents might not have been the best that the league has to offer, but they’re still professionals being paid to beat the Union. If it is a US Open Cup opponent, so be it. If it is league play, go beat them as you are supposed to do. This is a good start to the season, and there is no difference between playing these guys all in a lump at the beginning of the season, or spread throughout. Let’s go, Union, beat them all!

  4. Who cares about US Open Cup?



    MLS CUP 2022 hosted in Chester… Let the kids of Union 2 take care of US Open Cup!


    • Maurice Edu may feel mildly aggrieved by your comment, JFav.
      In essence, he played hurt in an Open Cup final trying to win it and was never able to recover to full fitness without injury for the rest of his career.

  5. In his presser after the draw, Jim Curtin used the phrase worst case scenario I believe I remember, and indicated that they might fly directly from LA to Orlando. Saturday night PT in LA and Tuesday night ET in Orlando makes that idea quite sensible, IMO.
    Sunday will be a day of travel and rest and recovery. Whether the rest and recovery occurs before or after the travel is unknown. Monday they will borrow a practice field somewhere in Florida. Tuesday night they will play.
    A few seasons ago a similar but lesser travel dilemma faced Bethlehem Steel FC, and the organization paid to fly the Steel where they needed to go to save the players a huge bus ride. It happened before they started budgeting to fly most places as a matter of course, so it was early in Steel FC’s existence.
    And they left their older captain at home since they wanted him for the second game.
    It will be interesting to see if anyone does not travel to LA and meets the team in Orlando. At the very least expect heavy rotation in the midfield and the attack for the Open Cup match in Orlando.
    Since it is LA FC and a battle of leaders I would not expect anything but the Union’s best lineup that Saturday night.
    Orlando play Montreal in Montreal earlier Saturday Saturday evening, so they have a shorter plane ride and no time zone changes, but they face a recovery challenge as well, so they may rotate their squad to a degree.
    As Andy Muenz points out above, Union II play that Saturday in Ft. Lauderdale, so first-teamers playing down could meet the first-team in Orlando.
    And thanks to the new CBA they could bring a few U II players up on short-term contracts. Those players may move up a total of four times but actually play up only twice.
    Remember what Andy has taught us in previous Open Cup years that Open Cup rules about internationals are different from MLS rules. I do not remember the details, but I remember that fewer internationals are allowed.
    For those wondering as I am about Union II striker Jose Riasco, unless he has had noticeable success previously appearing for Union II beforehand, I would be surprised to see him brought up.
    Union II’s usual first teamers might well be on the bench, and it would make a good deal of sense to start Matt Freese in goal. Bueno could easily see minutes. Turner might. Craig and Sorenson would probably only get cameos at this stage.

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