The Philadelphia Union may enter Week 12 in third place in the Eastern Conference, but they are one loss away from dropping back to the .500 mark.
Union boss Jim Curtin was well aware of the threat of a return to mediocrity ahead of this weekend’s clash with D.C. United.
“We don’t want to go back to being a .500 team.,” Curtin said. “This is a game where we really have to take advantage and try to jump on D.C. early and protect our home field to get that little bit of separation from the danger of mediocrity, which is a .500 record. We don’t want that.”
Friday’s clash with D.C. United is the first of four matches in 13 days before the team hits the Copa America Centenario break.
The key for the Union on Friday is to take advantage of the home crowd that has grown louder with every match this season. However, the results have not matched the energy recently as the Union drew with both the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy in their last two home matches.
Dropping two more points at home is unacceptable for a team that started fast and is now slowly drifting back to pack while New York City FC and Toronto FC find form and surge up the table.
“I think it’s early in the season still, but it’s a big game,” Curtin said. “In this league, and in our conference especially, it’s a game of runs. Two and three games getting results. Two or three wins here and there can really separate you and that’s something we’re fighting for right now.”
As for what D.C. United will throw at the Union on Friday, Curtin knows his side must stop the movement of forward Alvaro Saborio, who has a goal and an assist in two of his last four games, as well as the threat of Luciano Acosta.
“Saborio has found some real success occupying both center backs and that allows Acosta, who’s very clever, to drift and be the guy that has a bit of a freer role,” Curtin said. “(Acosta)’s a guy who can pick you apart if you’re not clever.”
Containing playmakers like Saborio and Acosta will be the latest test for the young Union back line led by center back Richie Marquez.
“If I’m going down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood, I want Richie Marquez behind me because you know what you’re gonna get and he’ll die for you, he’ll fight for you, he’ll do anything for you,” Curtin said. “That’s the kind of guy you want to go to battle with. I think he has a really high ceiling.
“His physical tools are exceptional,” Curtin said. “He’s really improving and it’s great to watch. He has that kind of quality to push and go to the next level and I’m happy to see how better he gets every game.”
Curtin also provided reporters with an update on the status of Andre Blake, who should leave the Union soon for Jamaica’s Copa America Centenario camp.
“It’s a matter of communication and open dialogue with Jamaica and doing what’s best for both parties to keep Andre playing at the level that he’s playing at,” Curitn said. “We have a good idea of when that’ll be. It’ll be game by game. Andre will be here against D.C. and we need to get three points from that one.”