Union manager Jim Curtin hasn’t had a Twitter account for a few years (at least not publicly), but he’s well aware of the negativity surrounding his team right now.
And while he disagrees with the critics, he acknowledged Wednesday that his team has hit some turbulence, and there could be more in the next few weeks.
“There is, you know, a little bit of noise and maybe negativity that comes up, because some of our performances haven’t been as good as they were at the beginning of the year,” he said during a news conference after practice. “That’s on us as a team. It’s on me to rectify it. We’ve shown flashes, certainly, but the consistency maybe hasn’t been there.”
The scoreboard proves that lack of consistency. Since the start of July, the Union have won at Orlando and D.C. -- the latter a 5-1 rout that’s the signature win of the season -- and lost at Real Salt Lake, Montreal, and most recently Chicago. They’ve beaten Chicago and Houston at home, but they were held to a tie against Orlando by conceding cheap goals.
Of course, for most of the Union’s history, a team this good would celebrated. They’re 13-8-6, smashing the club record for wins in a season, and are five points away from tying the all-time mark for points in a campaign. Most important, they’re in second place in the Eastern Conference and are close to securing their first home playoff game since 2011.
But finishing the job will be the biggest challenge of the season. The gauntlet of home games against powers D.C. United, Atlanta United, and Los Angeles FC will either prove the Union’s merits or send them tumbling down the standings.
“We want to find out now, as the big games come up, which Philadelphia Union group is this?” Curtin said. He called the Union’s success this year "new territory for us. But at the same time, I think that us not being happy with it ... I think that shows that it’s a club that’s changing.”
This much is certain: Curtin is relishing the opportunity to challenge three of MLS’ elite teams over the next four weekends. And he got a big break Wednesday night when Wayne Rooney got sent off for an awful foul in D.C.'s home game against the New York Red Bulls, meaning the English star will miss Saturday’s game in Chester (7:30 p.m., PHL17).