CHESTER, Pa. – A miracle.
That’s the word Philadelphia Union interim manager Jim Curtin used to describe his team’s current hopes of making the playoffs following Thursday’s gut-wrenching 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire.
“It’s not in our hands anymore,” Curtin said. “We’re going to need a miracle, more or less. You need to win your last three and you’re also going to need a lot of help.”
Things looked especially promising for the Union only a month ago when they completed a home-and-home sweep of Eastern Conference rival Toronto FC. But since then, the Union have picked up just three points in their last four games, giving away valuable points at home with a succession of disappointing draws.
Thursday’s, though, was definitely the worst.
With the Union leading 1-0 in stoppage time, goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi made an ugly blunder that cost the Union two vital points and prevented them from moving up from seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
“You feed off the energy of the crowd and with three points, you’re right in the thick of things,” Union winger Danny Cruz said from the despondent home locker room after Thursday’s game. “For me, this is probably the toughest [result] in my almost three years with the club. But we have to find a way to turn it around. I think you guys know that. Our fans know it. There is time. It’s dwindling down quick. But we have two big games coming up.”
The Union’s next two games are at home as they welcome the Columbus Crew (Oct. 11, 7 pm ET on MLS LIVE) and Sporting Kansas City to PPL Park (Oct. 18, 7 pm ET on MLS LIVE). The Union then finish the season with another game – this one on the road – against the Crew (Oct. 26, 5 pm ET on MLS LIVE), who currently sit four points in front of Philly with a game in hand.
“We have to get back to work on Monday,” Cruz said. “The good news is we play a team that’s in front of us twice. Two wins there and you never know what can happen, especially in this league.”
But even if they can beat the Crew twice, the Union will still need some help to qualify for the postseason for just the second time in the franchise’s five-year history.
Still, following other games is not something Amobi Okugo – who’s been with the club since the very beginning – is thinking about at the moment.
“I’ll watch as many games as possible, but I won’t be watching for results,” Okugo said. “We need to take care of our business. We didn’t do that tonight, but we have a chance next Saturday. I know that next week in practice, some people are going to get hurt. I know that for a fact.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.