CHESTER, Pa. — If there were ever a time when a team needed to come home, it’s the Philadelphia Union, right now.
Winless in their last six games, the Union have skidded from the top of the Eastern Conference to the middle of the table with just nine contests remaining in the regular season.
Desperately seeking their first league victory since July 17, the Union (8-7-10) play their first home game in 25 days, hosting the New England Revolution (4-11-11) on Wednesday night at PPL Park (8 pm ET, Galavisión).
“Coming home is always nice,” Philadelphia’s Stefani Miglioranzi said. “We’ve done really well here this year and we expect nothing less. … I think we play our best when we’re here.”
The Union, who boast a sterling 5-1-6 mark in Chester, haven’t played at home for more than three weeks because their originally scheduled game against the Revolution – on Aug. 28 – was pushed back due to Hurricane Irene.
Now, they have a cluster of four home games through the end of September, including two in the next four days – perhaps the perfect remedy to reclaim their spot near the top of the Eastern Conference table.
“It’s always great to come home,” midfielder Amobi Okugo said. “We have an extra bit of confidence whenever we play with the Sons of Ben behind us. … We’re just gonna have to bring it and hopefully protect our house.”
Even more promising for the Union is that the last game they won before their six-game winless skid began was a 3-0 thrashing of the Revolution.
But the Union are well aware that New England will come into PPL seeking some payback. And this time, they’ll have their captain, Sharlie Joseph, with them; Joseph was suspended the last time the two clubs met because of yellow card accumulation.
“He’s one of those players that really helps them control the tempo in the midfield,” Union forward Danny Mwanga said. “He’s a guy that gets the ball, a guy that starts their offense. I think we have to keep our eye on him.”
The Union, meanwhile, will play their first game without their captain – Faryd Mondragón – starting in net. Mondragón will miss up to four weeks with a broken finger he suffered over the weekend, but Philly can’t let that affect their final nine games – not if they hope to make the playoffs.
“It’s a challenge,” Mwanga said of the stretch run. “At the same time, for me personally, it’s a motivation.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.