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Time off may hurt Union in MLS standings

For the first time since their MLS opener March 7 against Colorado, the Union will have an entire weekend off.

For the first time since their MLS opener March 7 against Colorado, the Union will have an entire weekend off.

The good news is that it gives the players a breather, especially after a stretch of three games in eight days that culminated Saturday in a 2-1 loss to visiting New York City FC.

The bad news is that teams will get a chance to move past or stay ahead of the Union in the standings.

The Union are 4-9-3 for 15 points. They are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Columbus for the sixth and final playoff spot.

However, four of the teams directly ahead of the Union have at least two games in hand. The three teams behind the Union also have at least two games in hand.

This is a time for other teams to pick up points on the Union, who return to MLS action June 20, when they visit the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Union beat host Reading United, 1-0, in a friendly on Tuesday. Reading is the Union's Premier Development League affiliate and the teams have played each other since the Union formed in 2010.

Usually this is a game for all the reserves to play, but coach Jim Curtin played a number of starters for the first 32 minutes.

"We had two days off [from practice], so I wanted to use that as a training session," Curtin said. "It was a quick 32 minutes for many of them to get the rust off."

The Union will return to action Tuesday for their first U.S. Open Cup game when they host the Rochester Rhinos of the United Soccer League.

Unlike the friendly, the Union will play for keeps and starters will likely play more than 32 minutes. Last season, the Union advanced to the tournament final before losing to the Seattle Sounders, 3-1, in extra time at PPL Park.

One person who won't play is goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre, who is on loan to the Union from the Carolina Railhawks of the North American Soccer League. Sylvestre played in an earlier Open Cup game for Carolina and is ineligible to compete for the Union.

John McCarthy of North Catholic and La Salle University is likely to start in goal against a Rochester team he played for last year.

"It definitely has more meaning, going against a club I came from and one that helped me immensely," McCarthy said.

Keeper Andre Blake has returned to practice after a second surgery on his knee, although his status is not known.