With close to three months in the books this season, the Philadelphia Union are beginning to form a noticeable identity.
The first-place team in the Eastern Conference put MLS on notice in Week 2 with a road win at Columbus and they have tested some of the league’s best teams like the LA Galaxy for 90 minutes.
Their high-pressing identity will be on display twice in Week 13 as the Union look to gain separation from the rest of the East. The Union visit Orlando City on Wednesday and travel to the league-leading Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
“I believe we are starting to form an identity as a team that is very tough to break down defensively and is very good at home,” Union manager Jim Curtin said during his Monday press conference. “Now we need to carry that mentality on the road into two very hostile places against two very good teams.
“I think now you have a good idea of what we’re going to look like in a game,” Curtin said. “Whereas that wasn’t the case in the past. We sometimes looked like one of the top teams in the league and there were nights where we were inconsistent. I think the foundation now has been set.”
The Union’s first opponent this week is an Orlando side they downed 2-1 at Talen Energy Stadium on April 8 by way of Tranquillo Barnetta’s game-winning free kick.
Curtin’s men lucked out the first time they played the Lions as forward Cyle Larin sat out the contest with a knock. That will not be the case on Wednesday as the Canada international comes into Wednesday off a brace against Montreal on Saturday.
“We dodged a bullet last time we played so it’ll be a real challenge to shut him down, especially in that building,” Curtin said. “I can’t stress enough it’s one of the toughest places to go. To their credit, they’ve made it a tough place to play.”
Orlando is unbeaten at home, but they’ve also recorded four draws to go along with two wins at Camping World Stadium in 2016. Curtin’s Union are 1-3-1 on the road this season. The Union manager has a good idea of what he’ll see out of the Lions based off what Adrian Heath said after the Montreal game.
“He was a little disappointed with how end-to-end their last game got so I expect them to be a little more compact and tight,” Curtin said. “The good news is we’re on similar rest. We plan to continue to play the same way. We don’t do well when we sit back and absorb and are reactive instead of proactive.”
The Union also received good news this week as starting goalkeeper Andre Blake will stay with the team for both Week 13 contests before he leaves to join Jamaica’s Copa America Centenario camp.
“Jamaica’s been great with us,” Curtin said. “They’ve been excellent to work with. We came to the conclusion that what is best for both parties is he will be with us up until the Columbus game. The Columbus game is the only game he will miss.”
Curtin also provided reporters with an update on Michael Lahoud’s status. Lahoud was recalled from his loan to the New York Cosmos and is rumored to be sold to NASL side Miami FC, per Kristian Dyer of Big Apple Soccer.
“We have some things going on,” Curtin said. “Nothing is finalized so I’m not able to comment on any details of it, but there is something in the works. It is an accurate report.”