Last week when we talked about the Union, I said that in their three-match road swing, seven points wouldn’t be out of the question. Following a rough performance at RBNY, I questioned my own thought process. Despite generating some chances, there was no consistent organization on offense and the decision-making on defense and in goal was suspect at best.
The schedule didn’t get any easier, though a nearly seven-hour flight does allow chance for reflection. It took that flight and nearly 70 minutes of game action to see something come of it, but, thankfully due to balls off the foot of Alejandro Bedoya, the head of Kasper Przybylko, and some favorable video review, the Union once again hold their own destiny for a second place finish in the East.
Actually, Philadelphia can still win the conference and earn a first round bye, but it would require an unlikely loss by NYCFC at New England on Sunday and a Union victory at Columbus to force a winner-take-all contest on Decision Day.
The matches at RBNY and San Jose are somewhat a microcosm of the Union season. They showed the incredible promise and potential the squad has while also displaying the intense maddening feeling a Philadelphia supporter can have watching this club.
Let’s focus on the positive and go to San Jose. At this point, you expect great things from Przybylko. He has 15 goals to rank in the top-three in MLS and has the finishing touch, the likes of which the Union has never seen. His presence opens things up for everyone else and, as we’ve previously documented, it seems like everyone else has scored. Against the Earthquakes, it was Bedoya. You expect leadership and steady play from Bedoya, so that he has four goals and four assists is plenty. The fact that he can magically muster the ability to score his first goal in six weeks at arguably the most critical time of the year demonstrates his captaincy.
Philadelphia Union Odds: Why the Union Need Home Field
But before the thriller by the bay, the Union proved, maybe more than ever, why more home matches in the postseason are necessary. After owning the run of play for the first half hour in Harrison, N.J., one quick swing, a poor decision by Andre Blake, and it was 1-0 Red Bulls. From there, it seemed no consistent offense could be generated and RBNY walked away with a 2-0 win.
Even though the numbers would suggest that the Union have actually been one of the better road sides in the East this season (21 points in road matches is third best in the conference and fourth best in MLS), who has the success been against? Of the nine matches in which they’ve earned a result away from home, only three have come against clubs that are currently in the postseason. In order to have a deep run in the playoffs, they need as many home matches as possible, making a second place finish all the more critical to be able to play at Talen Engery Stadium through the conference semifinals.
Fortunately for the Union, while seven points on the road trip isn’t possible, six is likely. Philadelphia closes the three-match swing at Columbus on Sunday where they Union are a strong money line favorite at +200. Columbus has had a disappointing season with 15 losses and have scarcely generated a goal a match. A win there sets up a seeding battle with NYCFC on October 6.