Postseason hopes flickering for Union

Sebastien Le Toux' been on expansion teams last 2 seasons with different results.
Sebastien Le Toux' been on expansion teams last 2 seasons with different results.
Posted: August 20, 2010

BARRING DIVINE intervention, it may be safe to say that this season is a wash for the Union when it comes to eking its way into the Major League Soccer playoff picture.

With 10 games left in its inaugural campaign, it would take the collapse of quite a few teams - especially in the Western Conference - for the Union to capture one of eight seeds come October.

As much as MLS aspires to make an even mix of Eastern and Western Conference teams in the postseason, ultimately, the top eight teams make it in. If the regular season ended today, the East would only send Columbus (37 points) and New York (31) as playoff representatives. Six teams from the West best Toronto FC, which is currently third in the East with 26 points. That means Los Angeles (47 points), Real Salt Lake (39), FC Dallas (33) and Seattle (29) would represent the West. Colorado (28) and San Jose (26) would round out the final two with the Earthquakes squeaking by on goal differential (San Jose is plus-1 while Toronto is even).

The MLS standings make our scoreboard section everyday; see for yourself.

The Union has 17 points. And even if it won its final 10 games, 47 points may not be enough. A 10-game winning streak, too, would need to come by way of defeating a red-hot Los Angeles Galaxy team, albeit at PPL Park where the Union has lost just two games this season. Tack on a trip to Crew Stadium in a final regular-season game against Columbus, and things are looking pretty bleak.

Yet, many members of the team remain optimistic about the chances of making a run to shock the masses. Of the expansion teams, only 2009 insert Seattle surprised by finishing with not only a winning record, but a U.S. Open Cup title and a berth into the MLS Cup playoffs.

Then again, Seattle was a United Soccer Leagues import not built from scratch.

"The thing about my time in Seattle is that we all just came over from the other league and it wasn't as big a transformation as we had to do here [in Philadelphia]," said Union forward Sebastien Le Toux, a household name in Philly who was another spoke on a talented wheel in the Emerald City despite being selected first by Seattle in the 2009 expansion draft. "Here, we have a new coach, new teammates, a new city. We don't have that foundation, you know, like a lot of other cities did."

Don't tell that to fans who thought the Union needed to mimic the success of its Western counterpart in order to reap rewards. Coincidentally, the Union, starting its inaugural campaign in Seattle, had on-field mistakes that began a chain of events that found the team playing men short because of red-card infractions on five separate occasions, and, as a result, without key players. There were players being released (David Myrie, Shavar Thomas), players once thought to add spark now watching from the sidelines (Toni Stahl) and an injury bug that seemed to attack only players whose stars were beginning to shine (Shea Salinas, broken leg and Roger Torres, ankle).

"To be honest, I don't think there are any bullets left in the gun; we've shot ourselves in the foot so many times we've got to be out of bullets by now," quipped Union captain Danny Califf. "We know this season is a long way from over, though, and I think there are a lot of opportunities to end this season on a positive note. Ultimately, we'd like to think we control our outcome and that we can still turn this [season] around."

Odds and endlines

Tickets are on sale for the Union's final international friendly when the team hosts Chivas de Guadalajara at PPL Park on Sept 1. The friendly with Chivas replaces a match in which the Union was to host Spanish La Liga side Valencia CF . . . For those of you still incensed over the officiating that has arguably been another thorn in the side of not just the Union but MLS as a whole, the Daily News is planning a sit-down with Paul Tamborino, U.S. Soccer's director of referee development. MLS officials are governed by U.S. Soccer. Have a question for the director? Shoot me an e-mail . . . While the Union playoff picture may look bleak, the expansion Independence, of the seven-team Women's Professional Soccer league, is dominant. Led by forward Amy Rodriguez - who has 12 goals in 19 matches - the Independence (10-6-4) has 34 points and is a lock to earn the No. 2 seed in the WPS playoffs next month.

Shots on goal

UPCOMING GAME

Union (4-10-5) at D.C. United (3-14-3)

When: Sunday, 2 o'clock

Where: RFK Stadium, Washington

TV: 6ABC

On the Web: Streaming webcast at MLSSoccer.com

For kicks: The United is the only team in MLS in worse shape than the Union. The Union defeated D.C. in April by virtue of a three-goal performance from Sebastien Le Toux . . . The Union will face United keeper Troy Perkins and his 1.86 goals-against average, which is last in the league. Perkins has two shutouts, unlike Union netminder Chris Seitz, still waiting for his first, 20 games into the season . . . Midfielder Santino Quaranta and forward Jaime Moreno will be the players to watch for D.C. . . . The RFK trip will be a homecoming of sorts for Union boss Peter Nowak, who coached United for two seasons (2004-06) and led the franchise to an MLS Cup title in his first season.

INJURY REPORT

Out for the Union: Shea Salinas, MF (left fibula fracture); probable: Jordan Harvey, DF (left groin strain); Danny Mwanga, FW (left groin strain)

Out for United: Brandon Barklage, MF (left ACL tear); Andrew Quinn, GK (right meniscus tear); Rodney Wallace, DF (left fibula fracture); questionable: Juan Manuel Peña, DF (right quad strain); probable: Clyde Simms, MF (left calf strain)

HE SAID IT

"What's a foul in the first minute needs to be a foul in the 90th minute, and that's just not been happening." - Union forward Alejandro Moreno, on the questionable calls from Major League Soccer officials

TRIVIA TIME

What two well-known singers partially owned the NASL's Philadelphia Fury?

A. Sonny and Cher

B. Elton John and Sting

C. Paul Simon and Peter Frampton

D. Bruce Springsteen and Patti LaBelle

By Jamie Clary, author of the "First American Soccer Trivia Book," available at: www.soccerprofessor.com

Send search engine-free answer to: gabrielk@phillynews.com.

Answer will appear in upcoming Union Meeting. Congrats to Mike Bellman, of Langhorne, who correctly answered 16 as Bobby Convey's age when he signed with MLS.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|