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Philadelphia learns to crank out results
by Ridge Mahoney, August 13th, 2013 1:28AM

TAGS:  mls, philadelphia union


[MLS: Playoff Push] Slow and steady wins the race, they say. Only twice all season has it won as many as two games in a row, but the Philadelphia Union has quietly stayed in the Eastern Conference top five thanks to its ability to avoid long slumps.

Record: 10-7-7
First 10: 4-3-3
Last 10: 5-3-2

THE STORY SO FAR. By avoiding any lengthy skids – its longest winless run is three games – the Union has stayed in the playoff tier for most of the season. Head coach John Hackworth has molded a team of youth and experience that after suffering beatdowns against the Galaxy (4-1) and Montreal (5-3) in mid-May has cranked out results.

RECENT MOVES. Fabinho, signed in late June, got his first start last weekend in place of the injured Raymond Gaddis, who had started all of the prior 23 games. An Aug. 2 signing, midfielder Gilberto, is one for the future, according to Hackworth. Brazilian compatriot Kleberson has recovered from a thigh injury suffered in June and has made the bench for the last few games without making an appearance.

STYLE POINTS.  Sebastian Le Toux leads the league in assists (12), and before Jack McInerney cooled off he topped the goalscoring charts with 10. Yet Jack Mac’s movement and workrate opens up space for Conor Casey, who netted his eighth and ninth goals of the season last weekend in a 2-0 defeat of D.C. United. Sheanon Williams, Keon Daniel and Amobi Okugo are improving steadily, and despite a few foulups, keeper Zac MacMath has kept his spot.

NEEDS WORK.  McInerney hasn’t scored since June 1, and though Aaron Wheeler and Antoine Hoppenot have sparked the team off the bench the Union obviously needs McInerney sharp and causing problems. Communication glitches between MacMath and his defenders occasionally crop up. Veteran keeper Oka Nikilov waits in the wings.

FINAL ANSWER. Half of Philly’s 10 remaining games are against its Eastern Conference playoff rivals: Sporting Kansas City, New York and Montreal. It’s not a viable candidate to win the conference but failing to make the playoffs would be a terrible disappointment.

Eastern Conference:

39 Sporting KC 11-7-6 36/24
38 New York 11-8-5 36/31
37 Philadelphia 10-7-7 36/32
35 Montreal 10-7-5 34/34
33 Houston 9-7-6 26/22
31 Chicago 9-9-4 29/32
30 New England 8-8-6 27/20
26 Columbus 7-11-5 27/30
20 Toronto FC 4-11-8 21/31
13 D.C. United 3-17-4 13/41

August 17: @New York
August 25: @New England
August 31: Montreal
September 8: @San Jose
September 14: Houston
September 27: @Sporting KC
October 5: Toronto FC
October 12: @D.C. United
October 19: @Montreal
October 26: Sporting KC

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