Philadelphia Union have "another level" to reach as MLS's last undefeated team

MLS Week 6 began with three undefeated teams, but there’s only one still holding that distinction: the Philadelphia Union.

Head coach Jim Curtin’s team beat the Columbus Crew, 1-0, on Saturday evening at Subaru Park, extending their record to 5W-0L-1D to start the year behind a 2nd-minute own goal from visiting goalkeeper Eloy Room.

While the DOOPers posted four straight shutouts in the process, head coach Jim Curtin feels the 2020 Supporters’ Shield winners aren’t playing at their peak level.

“To start like this is something that gives confidence to our group but at the same time, I don’t think we’ve played great yet,” Curtin said. “I think we’ve been good in all the games, we’ve been certainly sound defensively, but we’re not a finished product, which I really, really like at this stage.”

MLS’s other undefeated teams were LAFC and Chicago Fire FC, with the former dropping a 2-1 El Trafico result at the LA Galaxy and the latter losing 1-0 at Orlando City SC after a decisive first-half red card.

Now, the Union have won five games in a row for the first time since joining MLS as an expansion squad in 2010. They’ve been No. 1 in the league’s past two Power Rankings editions.

“We’re not a team that’s peaking right now and has still almost 30 games in front of us,” Curtin said. “I like where the group’s at. I think we have the defensive part right. I think we have the grittiness right, the fight. We have the fans behind us, which helps tremendously. But this team has another level I think it can go to and it’s up to the coaching staff now to challenge them, to push them and get the most out of them and not get comfortable.”

As much roster continuity as Philadelphia boast from their 2021 campaign that ended with an Eastern Conference Final run, Saturday included a first-ever start for DP striker Mikael Uhre. The offseason acquisition from Denmark’s Brondby and club-record signing paired with Young DP striker Julian Carranza, who joined over the winter on loan from Inter Miami CF.

While that duo didn’t find the scoresheet, they proved consistently dangerous and reinforced why Philly have invested in their services.

“He made some plays that led to some really good transitions, some good hold-up play, some good flicks that kept plays alive for us,” Curtin said of Uhre. “Then you see his power and the strength to get in behind, had a couple good looks to get that second goal. But I’m sure that will come with time. Overall really happy with the debut that he had.”

Another highlight against Columbus was goalkeeper Andre Blake’s four-save shutout, which included a scary moment in the first half after Lucas Zelarayan’s free kick. The Jamaican netminder crashed against the post, prompting a pit-in-stomach moment on the Union bench.

“He’ll be okay. I was terrified because I looked up at the jumbotron, I think he was in so much pain he kept banging his leg just because it hurt so bad,” Curtin said. “But then once you saw the replay you saw pretty clear it was a shoulder off the post. He’s going to be sore, it’s going to be painful. I’m sure we’ll get some images done, but overall I think he’ll be fine. I give him a lot of credit because at halftime it was close to him coming out. He toughed it out, kept a clean sheet for us, which was important.”

Looking to keep this stretch going, Philadelphia return to action next Saturday when visiting Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).