The Union resume action Saturday after a rare lengthy break in the Major League Soccer season.
While the 6-12-6 Union have struggled with consistency in their inaugural MLS season, the team has played some of its best defense of the season over the last four games.
The Union hope to continue their recent defensive effort when they host Chivas USA (7-13-4) in Saturday's 4 p.m. match at PPL Park.
Despite losing their most recent game, 1-0, at San Jose on Sept. 15, the Union is 2-1-1 over their last four games and have surrendered just three goals in that span. That stretch also included the team's lone shutout, a 1-0 victory over the visiting Chicago Fire on Sept. 11.
Brad Knighton has played goal the last two games in place of Chris Seitz, who started 21 of the first 22 matches.
Team manager Peter Nowak's choice for goalie is expected to be a game-time decision but whomever it is will be playing behind an improved defense.
"Lately, in the last three to four games, we have done better, but we all agree there is still room to improve," said outside back Jordan Harvey, who has started 23 games and appeared in all 24. "One thing we need is more shutouts."
Three-quarters of the defense has been together the whole season. Center back Danny Califf has made 23 starts. Michael Orozco Fiscal has made 23.
Recently acquired defender Juan Diego Gonzalez has started six games in the back, although he has missed the last two with a groin strain. He has been replaced the past two games by newcomer Sheanon Williams and is listed as questionable for Saturday's game.
While the defense is getting better there are still lapses that have hurt the Union, especially leaving unmarked players near the goal.
With 24 points, the Union are tied for 13th among the 16 MLS teams. The top eight will make the playoffs and the Union enter the weekend 12 points behind the final playoff spot.
"There is still a shot at the playoffs and it's not like we are ruling it out," Harvey said. "I would say it's a long-shot and we have some tough games left, but we are taking it game-by-game and if we win our next few games, then there may be more chatter about it."
Chivas USA is one point ahead of the Union.
The Union and Chivas USA played to a 1-1 draw on July 3 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Saturday will be a key game for the Union because four of the final five matches will be against teams currently among the top eight MLS teams.
Independence in WPS final. The Independence will be in Hayward, Calif., this weekend for Sunday's league championship game against FC Gold Pride. The Philadelphia team qualified for the championship game by beating the Boston Breakers in Thursday's semifinal match. That win, a stunning 2-1 overtime victory, was the first time the Independence had beaten the Breakers this season.
The 2:30 p.m. contest will be televised on the Fox Soccer Network (FSN).