On the back of a 2018 season in which the Philadelphia Union set a new club-high for points in a season and after the signing of Mexico star Marco Fabian, expectations were high heading into 2019.
It all started with a home match against a then-struggling Toronto FC, who were without Jozy Altidore and yet to sign Alejandro Pozuelo. TFC came to Philly and beat the Union 2-0 to put a damper on their start to the season.
The Union have more than recovered from that result and now sit atop the Eastern Conference, doing so after getting a little revenge. Philly went to BMO Field and beat TFC 2-1 on Saturday, behind a winning goal from Jamiro Monteiro.
"It was a really special win for the group," head coach Jim Curtin said after the match. "This team has now answered a lot of questions. Initially the challenge was to get above the [playoff] line, then it was to push for first place and stay in first place. And today the challenge was against the top team in the East in their building and what would we look like. Every player to a man stepped up in a big way."
Unfazed by the challenge, the Union are rolling. They are unbeaten in five, including three wins on the bounce and one loss in their last 10 games.
"I think our players deserve all the credit as they’re not scared of any team," Curtin said. "I think they respect everybody, but they’re not scared of anyone. So again, it’s a situation where we come to a tough building and we have believed. We’re brave no matter who steps on the field for us."
Striker Kacper Przybylko kept up his stellar recent form, even if he didn't get on the scoresheet for a fourth consecutive game. He set up Monteiro for the game-winning goal in the 68th minute.
"It shows the attitude that we can fight like a team," Przybylko said. "It was a good team performance and like last week’s game, today was a big fight and it was a positive."
Before heading to play the Seattle Sounders in Week 12, Curtin has his eyes on another Philly team.
"[It's] a special win and you can feel the energy from the guys afterwards in the locker room," Curtin said. "Something to build on now but it gets no easier because we have Seattle coming next week so we’ll enjoy this, get back on the plane to Philly, hopefully watch a Sixers victory and get our group together and be ready to go for next week against Seattle."