Union’s game vs. Seattle Sounders another benchmark for Fafa Picault and his teammates
Fafa Picault still vividly remembers the Union's last game against Seattle, in which he scored the winning goal in a statement victory. Now the Union have a chance to make another statement as the Sounders come here on Saturday.
Fafa Picault still vividly remembers the Union's last game against the Seattle Sounders. As well he should, because he scored the winning goal in it.
But that night was about much more than that moment. It was a midweek game that required the year's longest road trip, and Picault's 93rd-minute goal came with the Union a man down after Jack Elliott's 89th-minute ejection.
The win also followed a 4-1 home loss to Montreal just four days earlier in the first game of Ernst Tanner’s tenure as sporting director. With confidence restored, the Union went undefeated in their next three games and clinched their first playoff berth in two years.
Though the rest of the season didn’t go as well, the span of success gave Picault and his teammates a taste of what was possible.
“We proved that we could beat a good team on the road,” Picault said after Tuesday’s practice. “It was a scrappy game, it wasn’t a pretty one, but going to Seattle is never easy. ... It kind of shut a few mouths and gave us momentum to keep going toward the end of the season.”
Now the Union are even better. With a new playing style that is both effective and attractive, they've lost just one of their last 10 games and sit atop the Eastern Conference on merit. And as they get set to host the Sounders on Saturday (7:30 p.m., PHL17), the matchup can again serve as a benchmark.
“With every game and with every week and month, we’re getting a better understanding of each other, the spots we want to be in, each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and also the formation,” Picault said. “It’s something difficult to deal with in the beginning, but now, with time and more difficult games, you can actually put it to [the] test and find out in which situations how to do what, and where to be, and how to play on both sides of the ball. I think we’re getting to that. We’re not there all the way, but we’re definitely getting closer.”
Saturday’s contest will begin a stretch of three straight games at home. The Union won’t have to travel anywhere until the June 2 game at Minnesota United. Picault is thrilled to be able to stay put for a while.
“We know we have some good teams ahead and want to beat them, and definitely show ourselves in front of our crowd and in front of our fans, and give them something to enjoy,” he said. “No planes, no away crowds, you just get to stay at home and maybe have family come visit. ... We’re definitely thankful for that, and really excited for it, too.”