CHESTER, Pa. – Shortly after the Philadelphia Union’s scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake ended Friday, Union interim manager John Hackworth called the result a blow to the team’s playoff aspirations.
Midfielder Brian Carroll added that making the postseason would be a “huge mountain to climb,” and forward Freddy Adu noted that the “playoffs are starting to look a little far away.”
But four days later, the Union players and coaches were singing a different tune.
Their message: It’s not over yet.
“Right now,” Hackworth said, “we still believe we can pull off something pretty special here.”
WATCH: Philly preview Columbus match
Considering the eighth-place Union (7-12-4) are 15 points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 11 games left in the season, just talking about the postseason might seem a little far-fetched.
But part of the reason for Philly’s renewed optimism stems from the realization that they can make up some points in a hurry with a game against Columbus at PPL Park on Wednesday (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online) and then at New England on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Their last nine contests are all against Eastern Conference foes too, but for now the Union are focused on beating a Columbus team that’s directly in front of them in the standings.
“The Columbus game is going be a huge game for us,” Hackworth said. “Because I think at this point in the season, we have to make sure getting three points at home, especially when getting three points and stealing three points from an opponent makes it a six-point swing in a lot of ways.”
Hackworth had said previously that there might come a time when he changes the philosophy and gives a look to some of the team’s deep reserves in preparation for the next season.
But that time has not come yet.
“If we get on a little bit of a roll here, things can change pretty quickly,” the Union manager said.
Right back Sheanon Williams agreed, pointing to the fact that the Union still have games in hand on every team in front of them as another reason to be hopeful that the postseason is more than just a pipe dream.
“Until someone tells us that we’re mathematically out, [the playoffs] are on everyone’s mind,” said Williams, who will return to the starting lineup Wednesday after missing the last game with a suspension. “That’s why you play the season – for that end goal. … I think everyone’s pushing along and trying to keep that alive.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.