HOUSTON — The Philadelphia Union did not make history on Wednesday. But as they reminded themselves after a shattering loss, they can still make progress this week.
Their 3-0 U.S. Open Cup final defeat by the Houston Dynamo was the biggest margin of defeat in the domestic cup competition since 1996. It was an eyebrow-raising outcome because while Houston are struggling in MLS play, the Union are well on track to clinch a berth in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Jim Curtin’s side have an eleven-point cushion in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining, so a depressing midweek could give way to a positive weekend when they travel to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday to meet fourth-place Columbus Crew SC, who are one point and one place above them in the standings (7:30 pm ET | Full TV & streaming Info). A win would put them in position to host a Knockout Round match at Talen Energy Stadium, while a loss would put them in position to have to return to MAPFRE Stadium in late October.
That’s the approach the Union players are taking after events at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“I think it’s OK to be frustrated and be emotional, but tomorrow’s a new day. We’ve got a game on Saturday, it’s a quick turnaround and we’re still in the playoff hunt,” said captain Alejandro Bedoya, who hopes that the unhappy climax to this Open Cup run will be a useful learning experience for the team’s youngsters when the postseason begins and the league turns into a knockout contest.
“Hopefully we can use this game as a motivation and learn from this. A lot of guys can learn from this and move on and hopefully go into the playoffs,” he said.
A deep analysis of what went wrong in Houston can wait, he added: “Now we’ve got to look forward to another game right away. We don’t have enough time really to dwell on this result.”
Midfielder Haris Medunjanin agrees. “We need to keep our heads up, if there’s a final you lose it’s very tough, difficult, but you cannot cry now for three days. We have an important game in Columbus,” he said.
The 33-year-old sought to put the evening in context.
“We’re having a great season,” he said. “We have a lot of good players, we’re a good team.”
Curtin’s pain was palpable as he digested the Union’s third Open Cup final failure in five seasons, but he still tried to accentuate the positives.
“The one thing this group has shown is resiliency. They have bounced back from difficult losses,” the head coach said. “We have to stick together in a tough time and bounce back against a really good Columbus team that is fully rested, waiting for us to go into their building. It will be difficult, but if you look at our last eight games, they have all been really, really difficult, and I think our group will have a good response.”
A club with a modest postseason history who missed the playoffs last year could yet achieve something special.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Bedoya said. “One night, one game, doesn’t make or break us.”