IT'S ALMOST inconceivable to think that despite the year the Union has had, making the Major League Soccer postseason is still not out of the question.
In fact, with losses by Seattle and San Jose, the Union still has life. Of course, the Union must win its last four games, namely against three of the top teams in the league, but that's like hoping for a puppy at Christmas and getting a hamster wearing a red bow instead.
Recently, I was informed that the Union isn't "mathematically" out of contention, despite a must-win game Wednesday night that resulted in a demoralizing, 4-1 loss to Colorado. I posted as such erroneously on my Twitter feed and was quickly bombarded with messages from supporters clinging to the hope that the Union will be playing in November. To those folks, (especially to the writer who called me a "talentless moron"), realize it would take a monumental collapse by Seattle (39 points), San Jose (38), Toronto (31) and now Chicago (29), which vaulted ahead of the Union after a 3-0 win over San Jose in the Wednesday-night late game.
For those who need a crash course in MLS Postseason 101, the league offers a comprehensive breakdown on MLSSoccer.com.
With that said, the Union has to upset - albeit at PPL Park, where it has enjoyed the most success this season - Western Conference leader Los Angeles (Oct. 7) and Red Bull New York (Oct. 16), then travel to Columbus on Oct. 24 for the season finale against the current Eastern Conference leaders.
Let's be serious here . . . seriously.
Aspirations were the highest they'd been all season after a 3-0 thumping of Chivas USA last Saturday, a game in which manager Peter Nowak agreed was the "finest performance" by his young club all season. The way the Union systematically shut down Chivas led to the belief that a consistent run of play like that exhibited against the Goats might just be the remedy to ignite a serious postseason run.
And then Wednesday night in Commerce City, Colo., happened.
"We have bought into the belief that we can play better defensively," said goalkeeper Brad Knighton. "When we put together a solid defensive performance, I think we have shown our numbers can be second to none in the league."
Knighton has a point. When the defense has played well, like it did at home against Kansas City and against Chivas USA, the Union as a whole is dominant.
But where was that same front on Wednesday when Colorado forward Omar Cummings, a player the Union scouted and knew was going to be a threat, scored a pair of goals just 15 minutes into the game? Cummings locked up MLS Player of the Month honors for September yesterday, and don't tell me it wasn't a direct result of having a multigoal game at the expense of the Union.
"I have to chalk this season up to this being an expansion year, these guys are still learning each other; and to be honest I think what they have done this season is pretty impressive," Union supporter Mike Rhoydon submitted via e-mail earlier this week. "But season two has to be different. The inconsistency just can't be the way it is now. It's not like we don't have the players to get the job done, everyone thought we'd be in last place this season and we are better than two teams in the [Eastern] conference. This is Philly, man; people aren't going to stand for subpar forever."
The playoffs might not be out of reach mathematically, but one realistic look at the arithmetic and it's hard to argue exactly how the Union will solve the playoff equation this season.
ODDS AND ENDLINES
Before Thursday's match against the Galaxy, fans will look to establish a Guinness World Record for the most people sanitizing their hands simultaneously. The event serves to highlight "Green Night" at PPL Park sponsored by SCA Tissue Co. . . . U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley yesterday named the roster for the Oct. 12 match against Colombia at PPL Park. The roster is loaded with players on premier European clubs, including goalkeeper Tim Howard (Everton, England), forwards Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England) and Jozy Altidore (Villareal, Spain) and defender Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, Italy) . . . Union midfielder Roger Torres is up for the award of favorite professional athlete by the Latino community of Philadelphia at the Hispanic Choice Awards to be held 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Kimmel Center. *
Houston Dynamo (7-14-5, 26 points) at Union (7-13-6, 27 points)
When: Tomorrow, 4 o' clock
Where: PPL Park, Chester
TV: 6.2ABC (Live Well), Telefutura
On the web: Streaming video at MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: Shrugging off a four-game losing streak in a 3-1 win over D.C. United last Saturday, Houston is playing the role of spoiler but could be doing so without the services of its starting goalkeeper Pat Onstad (concussion) and backup Tally Hall (ankle). Tyler Deric, 22, a goalkeeper through Houston's home-grown system, could see his first professional start . . . The Union is out for a season sweep of the Dynamo. The Union celebrated its first road win of the season at Houston's expense after a 3-2 final on May 29.
INJURY REPORT (as of Tuesday)
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 Houston: Colin Clark, MF (left knee surgery); Anthony Obodai, MF (L knee meniscus)
Doubtful: Pat Onstad, GK (concussion)
Questionable: Tally Hall, GK (right ankle sprain)
HE SAID IT
"I think we put an onus on defending throughout the entire team, one through 11 . . . it hasn't just been the back line." - Union captain Danny Califf on the noticeable improvement of the defense
What was the order of the three teams the United States played in the first round of the 2002 FIFA World Cup?
A. Poland, Portugal, South Korea
B. South Korea, Poland, Portugal
C. Portugal, South Korea, Poland
By Jamie Clary, author of the First American Soccer Trivia Book, available at:
Send search engine-free answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org