CHESTER, Pa. — Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin tried a few new things Friday night in an attempt to get his team back on track. Curtin gave attacking playmaker Roland Alberg his first start of the year, dropping captain Alejandro Bedoya to a more defensive role, and subbing veteran Oguchi Onyewu out for rookie Jack Elliott.
The lineup changes didn’t work.
At this point, nothing is working for the sputtering Union, whose winless streak is now at a staggering 14 games dating back to last season following Friday’s 2-0 home loss to New York City FC on Friday night.
And not surprisingly, the boos rained down on Curtin and the players as they came off the Talen Energy Stadium field. Sporting director Earnie Stewart also got an earful from at least one member of the Sons of Ben right before David Villa sealed Philly’s misery with a 53-yard wonder-goal.
“They’re not happy,” Curtin said of the Union fans. “We haven’t won. I’m not surprised there are boos. It’s our home building. They’re not going to be happy with the way things are going right now.”
The Union had high hopes coming into the season and then started things off with a couple of solid draws. But they’ve since lost four straight to plummet to the bottom of MLS, and questions have swirled about both Curtin’s job security and the quality of the roster Stewart assembled in the offseason.
Curtin, who received a public backing from Stewart this week, returned the favor to his boss by insisting the talent is not an issue.
“I think we have a great team,” the Union coach said. “I believe in the group. I think we believe in the work we do each and every week. It’s going to take us sticking together and getting results before any of the negativity around the team stops. I think the guys recognize that. The only way we can get out of it is with a win.”
Just like last week, when the team controlled the first 30 minutes before unraveling vs. Portland, the Union got off to a decent start in Friday’s nationally-televised Eastern Conference showdown. But the Union had no shots on goal in the closing 45 minutes, with second-half subs Fabian Herbers, rookie Adam Najem and Jay Simpson failing to strike much fear into the NYCFC defense.
And, if not for a couple of nice Andre Blake saves, the Union could have ended up losing by even more.
“We’re just in a rut right now,” said Philadelphia striker C.J. Sapong, who only had one shot in 90 minutes. “This is something that’s common in our league. You’ve just got to ride the wave, take the ebbs and flows as they come, and continue to believe that it’ll turn around for you.”
Union captain Bedoya agreed that just believing that the elusive first win is coming will be enough to end the team’s brutal drought.
“Just keep believing in yourself,” Bedoya said. “I’ve had times in France at Nantes where we were on an eight-game winless streak and it sucked. We had to stay in hotels for like a week before the game for four straight weeks until we got it turned around.
"Here, we’re not going to fight relegation. The team’s not going anywhere, so it’s important for the team to stay confident, keep believing in ourselves. In the locker room, it’s a young team, so guys like myself, the veterans, need to make sure the group doesn’t put their head down and get discouraged.”