In previous eras, clinching an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs spot would have been considered a cause for raucous celebration for the Philadelphia Union.
But following a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Charlotte FC in Matchday 33, a result that booked Philadelphia's trip to the 2023 postseason, head coach Jim Curtin said the postgame mood at Bank of America Stadium was more one of unfinished business – a sign of just how far the club has come in recent years.
"It's a good shift in mentality at the club," Curtin said on his postgame video call. "And I just jokingly said, there's a bunch of guys in there just quietly looking at their phones with their jerseys off. I just reminded them, and look some of them weren't here when this was the case, but at this club back then in the early days, man, there used to be champagne and beers flowing after a playoff clinch.
"And now it's – when I say nothing, you can walk in there, and it's crickets. They're mad that we didn't get a win. So that's a good change in mentality."
These days, a postseason appearance is considered the bare minimum for the Union, who have become one of the league's most consistent winners under Curtin and sporting director Ernst Tanner. As part of their ascent, the club took home their first Supporters' Shield in 2020 and came within a penalty kick shootout defeat to LAFC of taking home MLS Cup in 2022, following a dominant regular season that saw them finish on 67 points with a +46 goal differential.
While he was pleased to see his team clinch a spot in this year's dance with time to spare, Curtin said making another MLS Cup run is front of mind for his group, an objective that would be made easier by seeing out a top-four finish in the East and ensuring a home playoff game at Subaru Park.
"With six games left to be already in the playoffs now is a good thing," Curtin said. "But this group obviously wants more. We want to finish top-four and push as we can to get as many home games as possible."
With the Union currently sitting fourth in a tight East table, Curtin added every point is crucial, even if it's not the prettiest. The Union came back from a 2-0 second-half deficit to salvage the point, only avoiding defeat thanks to Dániel Gazdag's last-second penalty kick.
"Still six games left to play and we're going to push," Curtin said. "You see how tight it is in the East. It's going to be a fight. So this point matters in a big way."
It's set to be a hectic road to the finish line as the Union navigate a congested schedule, starting with a quick turnaround ahead of a Matchday 34 bout on Saturday that will pit Philly against last year's MLS Cup foe in LAFC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). It's going to be a depth test, with all hands on deck required in order to solidify their positioning.
"This is I believe our 42nd game," Curtin said. "So we're in uncharted territory ourselves, so this is new for all of us. It's a challenge for LAFC, too.
"There's no easy road for anybody, so I don't use that as an excuse, but we'll have to make smart changes."