Union depth bodes well for busy end of season – Delco Times
Coming out of the international truce in September, depth posed a problem for Jim Curtin. Then his first-choice team were beaten in DC, and his youngsters battled in a 1-0 loss to league-leading New England. Trying to bottle the strength of one group and downplay the weaknesses of the other was a tough line to follow.
From the October window, the depth of the Union became an asset. They haven’t lost since that game against New England, a 4-0-1 streak. The first team bombed Columbus on their last outing; the youth field dominated Cincinnati last week. With five games in 15 days, representing the last uphill kick of a marathon season, Curtin has an abundance of options for building lineups.
The first place is Saturday’s trip to Montreal (PHL17, 1 p.m.), where the Union, third (12-7-9, 45 points), will be able to stand out from the team occupying the seventh and last place in the playoffs. of the Eastern Association. With six players returning from international service in varying degrees of fitness and fatigue, Curtin will have choices to make.
“You always want to field your best team,” Curtin said Wednesday. “But you’ve got to weigh, these guys get off the plane, the trip, the fatigue that’s in their legs and all of a sudden with six games to go you’re losing someone to a long term injury to. this stage is stupid. “
The games are dense and fast. The Union travel to Minnesota United on Wednesday before the penultimate home game against Nashville next Saturday, pitting the teams currently second and third in the East against each other. They travel to Canada again to face Toronto before the October 30 meeting with Cincinnati, last place.
In isolation, each match is an opportunity to accumulate points. Taken together, the glove is intimidating.
The play of the young Union contingent – among them, Paxten Aaronson with a goal against Cincinnati, Jack McGlynn with a solid performance, Quinn Sullivan with an assist against Columbus and Nathan Harriel with an assist against Cincy – means the manager did not tax veterans who leave international service.
While Jamiro Monteiro was back in Philly from Cape Verde on Tuesday, others are slower to return. Daniel Gazdag has made a good comeback. But Alvas Powell (groin) and Olivier Mbaizo (leg) brought back small blows in memory. Harriel’s play allows Curtin not to push back either. Jose Martinez, who played for Venezuela on Thursday in Chile, will likely be out due to travel restrictions linked to COVID-19. Curtin said everyone meets Canada’s vaccination requirements for entry.
At this point in the season, Curtin said, missed practice time is not an issue. For this group, it will mainly be maintenance and a brief planning of the game centered on Montreal.
The Union faces a squeeze up front, with Cory Burke (ankle) still around a week away and Sergio Santos treating grade 1 hamstring tension. For the latter, which has proven to be particularly fragile, taking over slowly and deploying Aaronson or Sullivan seems a prudent option.
The silver lining for Curtin is that all teams have the same conversations: All teams in the East, except two, must block six games in four weeks before decision day, Nov. 7. Montreal (11-10-7, 40 points) has five players. (four Canadians) returning from international service. Coach Wilfried Nancy led Montreal to one of the more low-key achievements, and he’s firmly in the playoff table, one of three teams with 40 points, one ahead of Atlanta in eighth.
Saturday marks the Union’s first trip to Montreal since July 27, 2019, a 4-0 loss against the Impact, renamed since. The Union needed a goal from Sullivan in the 87th minute to win a 1-1 draw on August 21 at Subaru Park.
Saturday promises to be a similar struggle in a harsh environment.
“Each team is now going to have to grind, will have to make some very tough decisions about which games to maximize points and prioritize in terms of freshness of your squad,” Curtin said. “There are so many variables that come into play. It won’t be easy for any team.