Philadelphia Union still not "comfortable" despite Eastern Conference lead

The Philadelphia Union found themselves in a familiar spot following a hot, humid 1-0 win at Orlando City SC on Saturday evening.

With their victory over Orlando at Exploria Stadium, the Union are now on a four-match winning streak and are unbeaten in their last five games. They ended the night the same way it started: Atop the Eastern Conference standings, now on 42 points (11W-2L-9D) and still narrowly trailing LAFC (45 points) in the Supporters' Shield race.

For Jim Curtin, the wider the gap between his team and the rest of the Eastern Conference, the better. New York City FC trail them by just one point with a game in hand (12W-4L-5D, 41 points).

"We don't get too high or too low after wins or losses, but this is a good spot to be in," the head coach said postgame. "We really wanted to create some separation in the Eastern Conference. We talked about that, and since I've talked about it, these guys have done nothing but reply and do what we asked of them."

Saturday's match wasn't without its share of controversy: Daniel Gazdag's opener in the 39th minute off a flicked header by Jakob Glesnes on a corner-kick routine was originally taken off the board as the assistant referee ruled that the midfielder was offside. But referee Alex Chilowitz, after a check of the Video Review monitor, ultimately awarded the goal, Gazdag's 10th of the season and the only one of the match.

"Incredible player. I think it's no coincidence in this sport when you work so hard, good things happen for you, and that goal is an example of that," Curtin said of Gazdag.

With 12 matches to go in their 2022 regular season, the Union, the last team unbeaten team at home, have lost just twice, to Chicago Fire FC 1-1 on June 29 and at Toronto FC on April 16. But they have nine draws, including an eight-match stretch between April 23 and June 18 where they tied opponents seven times, including five times in a row at one point.

Curtin, though, expressed belief that it served to make his group stronger in the long run.

"We have a team that when we were tying a lot, we were frustrated. We left a lot of points on the table," he said. "Conversely now, we are hard to beat, which is the sign of a good team."

The Union hope their run of form ends with not just hoisting the Supporters' Shield for the second time in three years but also their first-ever MLS Cup. They've shown steady progression in the last couple of years, winning the Shield in 2020 before crashing out of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in the first round and making last year's Eastern Conference Final before falling to eventual league champion New York City FC.

Saturday night's performance, which saw the league's top defense (15 goals allowed) keep its ninth clean sheet, was another big step toward a potential championship finish.

"Not being beat in this many games, in 22 games now, being beat twice, is something to be really proud of," Curtin said. "This group doesn't get satisfied or take pause or get comfortable."