Philadelphia Union credit "strong group" for last-minute win in Seattle

SEATTLE – It’s safe to say the odds were stacked against the Philadelphia Union going into their Wednesday evening showdown with the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.

The Union made the cross-country trek to the notoriously hostile confines of CenturyLink coming off one of their worst performances of the season – a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of the Montreal Impact at their home field on Saturday. Star midfielder and MLS assist leader Borek Dockal didn’t suit up for the contest. To top it off, the Sounders were in the midst of a nine-game win streak that represents a league record for a single season in the post-shootout era.

It all seemed lined up for Seattle to push that mark to double digits. But thanks to a late error from Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei and a timely finish from Fafa Picault, Philadelphia are headed home with a 1-0 victory and all three points.

“Coming into a very difficult place to play, couldn’t be prouder of the guys to get a result here,” Union coach Jim Curtin said outside the visiting locker room afterward. “We talked a lot about the character of our team is going to be shown in how they respond after a difficult and disappointing performance against Montreal. And I think the players deserve a lot of credit for stepping up.”

Wednesday’s dramatic finish became all the more improbable after Philadelphia lost defender Jack Elliott when he picked up a second yellow card just before the start of second-half stoppage time.

The match seemed destined to end in a scoreless deadlock but Picault made Frei pay with the dagger finish after picking off a pass from the Sounders’ backstop intended for midfielder Gustav Svensson. The fact that the whole sequence came with Philadelphia down a man, Curtin said, is evidence of his team’s character.

“It’s a strong group. The locker room is together,” Curtin said. “After a pretty good six-game run we had a performance against Montreal that no one was happy with. So I think we showed some character tonight, even down a man still going for it at the end.”

Ending Seattle’s record win streak on their home field may have been icing on the cake, but both Curtin and Picault said they’re more pleased about maintaining ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With the victory, the Union are now up to 43 points from 29 matches, which leaves them four clear of the Impact for the conference’s sixth and final playoff spot.

“We don’t care about other teams,” Picault said. “We don’t care if they’ve won nine, 10, 15, we don’t care. It’s important we do our job every time we play, every game is new, every day’s new. We have to come out and do our job, so that’s the most important thing. It wasn’t the prettiest game but we got the job done and now we go back to Philly.”