Jim Curtin - Philadelphia Union - Oct. 1, 2016
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Slumping Philadelphia Union have "backs against the wall," says Curtin

CHESTER, Pa. — Is Saturday’s game a “must win” for the Philadelphia Union? Does such a thing even exist in the second month of an eight-month regular season?

Perhaps not. But the truth is, the urgency has been ramped up in a big way for the Union, who are winless in five straight heading into a home matchup vs. a D.C. United team with the same 1-3-2 overall record (3:30 pm ET | UniMás – Full TV & Streaming Info).  

“We’re six games in. Perspective-wise, there’s a lot of season yet,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “But at the same time, our backs are up against the wall. We recognize where we are on the table.”

There are certainly some reasons to be worried for the Union, who follow Saturday’s game with a three-game road swing, starting with a trip to defending MLS Cup champions Toronto FC next week. Curtin has also said in the past that he believes that arguably the five best teams in the league are in the Eastern Conference, leaving very little wiggle room to sneak into the playoffs — which the Union have only done twice in their eight-year history.

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Curtin insists his team is close to turning things around, however, even though they’ve only scored one goal in the last five games and are coming off back-to-back 2-0 losses to Orlando City and FC Dallas.

“We know our entire attacking group is one that has a lot of quality,” the Union coach said. “And I’m still confident we’ll break out soon.”

What will it take for that offensive breakout to happen? The Union coach didn’t indicate that he’d make any big changes, except to say that Ilsinho, who’s logged only 108 minutes this year, will “play a big role in this weekend’s match.”

He also expressed confidence in Designated Player midfielder Borek Dockal, who “has the ability to see things others don’t,” and CJ Sapong and David Accam, who combined for 30 goals last year and only one so far this season.

Their struggles were magnified last week when Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer made a fantastic double save on Accam and then Sapong, negating a golden scoring opportunity generated by a Dockal cross.

“It takes one play, one guy to step up to turn things around,” Curtin said. “In our league, things can change quickly. We hope that’s in our future.

“Maybe it takes a fluke play where all of a sudden we get a break and someone makes a mistake. Right now, teams aren’t making mistakes against us.”

Whatever it is, the Union know it will have to happen soon before they’re staring down the barrel of another playoff-less season. Perhaps that’s why Curtin said the week has been filled with “lively” training sessions with the coaching staff recognizing that the “group needs a kick right now” to get out of their funk.

“We’re in a tough spell,” Curtin said. “And we have to fight our way out of it.

“We have to stick together in a hard moment.”