It's simple, really.
Tonight's game against Colorado, in Commerce City, Colo., is a must-win game.
Win and that glimmer of a playoff chance the Union is clinging to will remain, as earning three points is essential with just five games remaining for the club in the 2010 MLS regular season.
Despite its 7-12-6 (27 points) record, the Union along with Kansas City (33 points), Toronto (31), Chicago (26) and Chivas USA (25) each have a shot at capturing the final playoff spot in the eight-team postseason tournament.
Ironically, the Rapids (38 points) are holding down the last playoff spot. Despite a tie Saturday with Real Salt Lake, the Rapids have been on a tear, winning three of their last five, 3-0. Forward Conor Casey will miss tonight's match due to a yellow-card suspension. Casey is the Rapids' all-time leading scorer, and has 11 goals this season.
"These home games are not to be taken lightly," said Rapids coach Gary Smith. "The players have given everything they've got and there is a real steely determination in this group to finish the job off."
The Union will be without defender Cristian Arrieta, who is on international assignment with the Puerto Rican national team. But the defense has sizably improved with the addition of Sheanon Williams, from Harrisburg of the Premier Development League. Williams is expected to fill in for Arrieta. Up top, rookie forward Danny Mwanga is listed as questionable with a nagging left shoulder sprain.
Goalkeeper Brad Knighton is expected to get his fifth MLS start. Knighton led the Union to a 3-0 shutout of Chivas USA Saturday for both his and the club's second clean sheet.
"We have bought into the belief that we can all play better defensively," Knighton said. "We have in the past couple weeks and as you can see our defending and overall performance are second to none in league . . . we need that to continue especially with some tough games coming up."
The Union return to Philadelphia tomorrow in preparation to host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday (4 p.m., 6.2ABC). Two more home games against Los Angeles (Oct. 7) and Red Bull New York (Oct. 16) are on the docket before the regular-season finale at Eastern Conference leader Columbus (Oct.24).
Union (7-12-6, 27 points) at Colorado (10-7-8, 38 points)
When: Tonight, 9:30
Where: Dick Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
TV: 6.2 ABC (Live Well Network); Telefutura
On the web: Streaming webcast at MLSSoccer.com
Questionable for the Union: Eduardo Coudet, MF (right calf strain); Danny Mwanga, FW (left shoulder sprain)
Probable: Stefani Miglioranzi, MF (left shin contusion)
Out for the Rapids: Ciaran O'Brien, MF (left hip sprain); Ross Schunk, FW (right ACL tear)
Doubtful: Julien Baudet, DF (hamstring strain)
Probable: Omar Cummings, FW (left ankle sprain); Matt Pickens, GK (groin strain)