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Union's MLS playoff hopes dwindling by the week

On the surface, the Union appear very much in the hunt for one of the six Major League Soccer Eastern Conference playoff spots, but a closer look presents a dire situation.

On the surface, the Union appear very much in the hunt for one of the six Major League Soccer Eastern Conference playoff spots, but a closer look presents a dire situation.

The Union (7-14-6) have 27 points, just two behind sixth-place Orlando City. Both teams have played 27 games, with seven remaining.

Yet the wild-card team is the Montreal Impact, currently in seventh place with 28 points, one behind Orlando City. The Impact have four games in hand over both the Union and Orlando City.

That's why Saturday's 1-0 loss to visiting New England was so crushing for the Union. It appears the only chance for the Union to make the playoffs would be to secure the sixth spot, since Toronto and New England occupy the fourth and fifth spots, respectively, with 37 points. (Toronto owns the tiebreaker, which is why it is fourth.)

So with the playoffs a long shot, coach Jim Curtin was asked after Saturday's loss how he will approach the rest of the season.

"We have three games at home left and four on the road so that's the way we have to approach it," he said.

What else can he say?

Curtin doesn't want his team falling into the trap of just looking forward to their U.S. Open Cup championship on Sept. 30 against Sporting Kansas City.

With roughly 20 percent of the season remaining, he has to convince his team that there is still plenty to play for.

That's not the easiest selling job, especially since the Union have to travel to San Jose on Saturday to face the surging Earthquakes, who have won four in a row after last week's 1-0 victory over the defending MLS cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy. All four wins have been by shutout.

Plus the Union will definitely be without MLS assist leader Cristian Maidana, who earned a red card against New England and goalkeeper Andre Blake, who is with Jamaica's national team.

What Curtin was most upset about on Saturday is that the Union looked so flat after winning at Montreal the week before for the first time in franchise history.

"I'm disappointed we can't get over that hump of putting together back-to-back performances," he said.

The Union have only won consecutive MLS games once this season when they beat D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls on May 17 and 24, respectively.

The lack of consistency has shown in the record and unless the Union have a quick about-face, the playoffs would be missed for the fifth time in the franchise's six-year history.