Inside the Union: Hackworth's team faces must-win game against Impact

"This game is as important as any this season," says the Union's Sheanon Williams (right), in action against the Portland Timbers.
"This game is as important as any this season," says the Union's Sheanon Williams (right), in action against the Portland Timbers. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 19, 2013

The Union have just two Major League Soccer games remaining, and regardless of the math, there is no way around it: They have to go to Montreal and earn three points against the Impact, a daunting but not impossible task.

The Union could be eliminated from the postseason if they lose, the host Chicago Fire beat Toronto FC on Saturday, and Houston defeats the visiting New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

Although a tie could keep them in the running, it shouldn't give the Union much security.

"This game is as important as any this season," defender Sheanon Williams said Thursday at PPL Park after the team finished practice.

The top five Eastern Conference teams make the playoffs. The Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City have clinched berths with 53 and 52 points, respectively. Houston is third with 48. Montreal, Chicago, and the Union are next with 46, but the Union are listed in sixth place because of the first tiebreaker - total wins.

Montreal and Chicago both have 13 wins, and the Union 12.

Normally the Union's mind-set, especially against a playoff contender, has been to go on the road and get at least one point and possibly take three.

But earning one point can't be an option, especially since the Union end their season at home against a Kansas City team that could be going for the best record in the league.

The Union got a break Wednesday when Montreal, with a game in hand, lost, 1-0, at Los Angeles.

"With them losing, that puts a little more pressure on them to come out and do well on Saturday, and we can kind of play freely not having as much pressure as they do," Williams said.

Team manager John Hackworth also mentioned that Montreal, a team that is 0-5-1 in its last six MLS games, is feeling the heat.

"I think the one big advantage we have is we don't feel the pressure is on us," Hackworth said. "We feel the pressure is on Montreal."

Sorry, we're not buying it.

Just as we aren't buying that the Union did well to salvage a point in last week's 1-1 draw at D.C. United against the team with the worst MLS record.

The Union scored on a goal by Jack McInerney in second-half stoppage time to tie it, and for that they showed great fight, but it's a situation they never should have gotten into. The Union clearly were outplayed in the first half.

Those additional two points they didn't earn could be the difference between sitting at home and participating in the postseason.

The Union, who are 2-0-1 in their last three games after going through an 0-3-2 spell, must come out trying to apply an early knockout punch, something they haven't done much this year. The Impact will not have much rest after flying back from Los Angeles.

"There will be some tired legs [on Montreal], and we definitely have to take advantage of it," Williams said.

The Union can say what they want about the pressure, but the reality is that if a team loses Saturday, it will be difficult to extend its season beyond next week. Because of the first tiebreaker, a tie helps Montreal more than the Union.

Which means there is a ton of pressure on the visitors, and deep down they have to realize that.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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