Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth came to the realization a few weeks ago that, barring a miracle, his team wasn’t going to make the playoffs this season.
But that doesn’t mean he wants the chase to officially come to an end.
For the second straight week, the Union need a result to avoid being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. And Hackworth plans to use that as motivation when the Union face Columbus at Columbus Crew Stadium on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“One of our goals right now is to go as long as we can before being mathematically eliminated,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “At the same time, that puts you in a little bit of a spoiler role. Any time you can use motivating factors, especially as you get to the end of a long season, I think all of those things are important.”
Interestingly enough, Saturday’s game will be the third straight in which the Union play a team right on the cusp of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Last week, they lost to fourth-place D.C. United, before topping fifth-place Houston to avoid getting mathematically eliminated. Now, they’ll look to do the same against the sixth-place Crew, who currently sit one point behind Houston for the final playoff spot.
But it won’t be easy. The Crew are 9-3-2 at home this season (and 5-0-1 there in their last six) and stole a victory from the Union in the final minutes at PPL Park when the two clubs met a month ago.
“Columbus is a team that hasn’t lost at home in a long time,” Hackworth said. “They had a couple of tough games on the road but they are a good team. They showed that when they came here and got a result in injury time. For us, we need to go back there and do a job against a team fighting for a playoff spot. The only way we can stave off elimination is to get a result, get a ‘W.’ That’s what we plan to do.”
And even if their own playoff aspirations have already disappeared, the Union hope to build off last week’s victory and finish the 2012 season with a little bit of a winning streak.
“Because of the parity, this league sets itself up for streaks,” Hackworth said. “I would be very encouraged if we can go into Columbus and get another win. That would keep us going in the right direction. I think we’re capable of doing that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.