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Union manager has team in playoff mode

With 13 MLS games to go, interim manager Jim Curtin is stressing the importance of every match.

Union head coach Jim Curtin. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Union head coach Jim Curtin. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

THE UNION have a tall task ahead of them if they want to make the playoffs. They sit at 5-8-8, just three points back of being tied for a playoff spot. As interim manager Jim Curtin says, they are treating each of their last 13 Major League Soccer matches like playoff games.

Their first test comes tonight against the best team in the Eastern Conference as the Union visits Sporting Kansas City (11-5-5).

"We are realistic when we look at the table," Curtin said. "We have to go on a run. Kansas City, for me, is a top team in the MLS right now. Kansas City has a great model of having a ton of players they can just plug in, and no matter who is missing, they are able to plug guys in."

Philadelphia has had past success against Kansas City, which has been among the best in the MLS for the past 2 years. On May 14, the Union came away with a 2-1 victory at home. Last season, the Union took down KC at Sporting Park.

"It is almost strange because I would say that is one of the toughest places to go and play," Curtin said. "We have grinded out, I would call, a couple results and dodged a lot of bullets. We have had our defenders and goalkeepers bail us out a lot there. It is going to be a tough game."

The Union will catch a break tonight as Kansas City will be without some key players on their back line, including Matt Besler.

Besler, who had a good World Cup for the United States, received a red card in Kansas City's last match against Toronto FC, and will have to sit out against the Union.

Still, Curtin has warned the Union not to take the Kansas City defense lightly.

"I warned our guys today they still have some amazing attacking players . . . a lot of dangerous players offensively," Curtain said. "Will they juggle a little in the back, yes. But they seem to do that and not miss a beat. They are well-coached, well-run."

Philadelphia will look to add to their 1.57 goals-per-game average. With the back line of Kansas City hurting, expect to see the Union forwards Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey going full throttle.

"When he gets five, six consistent games where he gets his body going, he will score goals," Curtin said of Casey.

Curtin also hopes Le Toux contributes.

"It has been a little bit of a rejuvenation. He is scoring goals," Curtin said. "One of the best one- touch finishers in the league. He gets on the end of things at the right spot, on the right time. He makes good runs, and can also cross and serve a ball and set up goals."

The Union will need the scoring of Le Toux and Casey, as well as the goalkeeping of Zac MacMath in presumably his last start as Union goalie to take down Kansas City.

The Union signed 28-year-old goalie Rais M'Bolhi, on Wednesday. The two-time World Cup veteran who played for Algeria, is expected to take over starting role beginning with next Saturday's home game against Montreal at PPL Park.