MAYBE THERE is something bad in the water that Philadelphia Union players drink during training sessions.

This season was supposed to be different.

Manager Jim Curtin, instead of diving in headfirst at midseason as he did when he got the job on an interim basis last year, has had a full offseason to plan and prepare for the task.

Collaborating with technical director Chris Albright and assistant coach Mike Sorber, Curtin has brought in his own players and put together the roster he wanted.

Still, the 2015 team is starting to look like the same, old Union - a group that rarely comes through in the big moments, drops points in the most maddening of manners and doesn't match up with the top-echelon teams of Major League Soccer.

Yes, it has only been the first four matches of a 34-game grind of a season, but the Union sits in last place in the Eastern Conference, with no league wins and just two points.

The Union has just three goals, one of which was an own goal by Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave, and have been scoreless in three matches.

Their goal differential sits at minus-three.

A team cannot make the playoffs at the start of a season and, frankly, it is hard to lose a playoff spot when only 11 percent of the season has been completed.

For the past two seasons, the Union has missed the playoffs because of a point or two lost here or there.

Given the Union's history over the last three seasons, an early hole seems about three times deeper than it actually is.

And, given the Union's history, is anyone confident the team can pull things together and not end up having another slow start lead to it coming up short in the playoff race again?

"We're frustrated," Curtin said as his team prepares to play at Sporting Kansas City this Sunday. "We're angry, for sure. We also know that this is a good group, this is a good team, and the points that we've gained so far haven't really reflected what we've put into it.

"My message to all of them is to stay positive."

Has anybody else simply had it with the positive messages from the Union? We've heard that "We're better than the table shows" argument an awful lot.

Well, until these positive messages start getting followed by positive results, they're meaningless.

For the past two seasons, and the start of this one, the only thing the Union has been consistently good at is claiming it is a better team than the negative results sometimes indicate.

Talk does not cut it anymore. It is time for the Union to start showing that it is a good team instead of just saying it is one.

The reality is that a team is not what it says it is. It is what its record says it is.

What the Union has shown so far is that little has changed. What it did before, it is still doing.

A team should not drop two points at home because it couldn't score a goal against an opponent that played the final 20 minutes with 10 players.

Sure, it was a soft foul on Union captain Maurice Edu that led to the late, game-tying, penalty-kick goal in the 3-3 draw at Real Salt Lake. But why was Luke Mulholland making a dangerous run into the Philadelphia box in the 85th minute anyway?

How does Fred get sent off for a straight red card in the 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire just a week after Zach Pfeffer got sent off with one in a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas?

This team can't make a decent final pass or shot to crown a scoring opportunity. It still gets brain cramps on set pieces that result in opposing goals.

The little things make a difference and, too often, the Union still can't get the little things correct when it counts the most.

"The decisions that you make in the moment, the big critical moments in the game, we've come up very short on," Curtin conceded. "In front of goal offensively, we have come up short. Defensively in our own box, we've come up short on corner kicks and free kicks.

"And then the silly stuff with red cards, you know something that should not be happening . . . But the month of March is behind us and it was a bad month for the Philadelphia Union.

"It's in the past now. We're on to April and we need to get some results in April."

We've heard similar lines before. This time we'll see if something good will actually happen.

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com