JIM CURTIN wasn't ready to deem the next two games "must wins," but if the Union is to make a playoff push, results from this upcoming stretch are paramount.
Starting tomorrow night, when it hosts the Colorado Rapids (7-5-5) at 7 p.m. at PPL Park, the Union (4-8-6) plays three MLS games in 8 days. It remains mired in eighth place in the 10-team Eastern Conference, but trails the fifth-place New York Red Bulls, Wednesday's opponent in Chester, by only two points.
"Fortunately, the East isn't very strong right now this year, which is helpful," said Curtin, the Union's interim manager. "When you look at the table, I think it'll probably take 45 points maybe, which comes to about 12 wins and 10 ties, maybe something in that range, to get into the playoffs. We're running out of games, though, so there is a sense of urgency."
Tomorrow is Philadelphia's lone 2014 meeting against Colorado. Via six shutouts from goalkeeper Clint Irwin, the Rapids enter the weekend third in the Western Conference standings. The Union still hasn't won a league match at home since its March 15 home opener against New England. The club is, however, coming off Tuesday's 2-0 U.S. Open Cup victory against the Revolution to advance to the tournament's Aug. 12 semifinals against FC Dallas.
Maurice Edu, the standout Union midfielder who's spent recent weeks at center back, will miss the Colorado game because of a red card handed down in the 89th minute of the July 4 loss at Dallas. Expect Austin Berry or Ethan White to step in on the back line, although Berry earlier this week was battling an illness.
While the club will miss Edu, the Union could see the return of midfielder Vincent Nogueira, who's missed the last two MLS contests with a left groin injury. Curtin said Tuesday he was hopeful Nogueira would be ready to play the Rapids, but also noted the recent performance of Cristian Maidana allows the staff to ease Nogueira back into the fold.
"You add him with things that Maidana is doing right now and you have a handful of a midfield," Curtin said.
The Union also should soon have, perhaps as early as tomorrow, Jamaican Golden Boot striker Brian Brown, who is finalizing a loan deal to play here through the end of this MLS season. Brown, a 21-year-old from the Harbour View Football Club, of the Red Stripe Premier League, has been training with the team while the deal is being finalized.
Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer, a 19-year-old from Dresher, made the 20-man roster for the U.S. Under-20 team for this year's NTC Invitational Tournament. Competition takes place Monday through next Friday in Carson, Calif. Players gathered for training camp yesterday . . . Colorado's roster includes Union original and 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick Danny Mwanga, who has appeared in only five games this season . . . Online fan voting for the Aug. 6 MLS All-Star Game ends today. The starting XI will be revealed during halftime of Wednesday's Union home game vs. the Red Bulls.
Union (4-8-6) vs. Colorado Rapids (7-5-5)
Tomorrow, 7 p.m., PPL Park