Philly Union hit crucial stretch while Gold Cup keeps players away

Over the last two months, the Philadelphia Union (6-7-5) have found a way to hold their ground in a tough Eastern Conference, which boasts the MLS’ top three teams (Chicago, Toronto FC, NYC FC). They currently sit just five points out of the sixth and final playoff spot in the East with 16 matches left in the season.
In the franchise’s history, this is usually when seasons seem to slip away. 
Even last season, where they notched their first playoff berth since 2011, the team backed into the playoffs by going winless in their final seven matches. 
It’s crucial that the Union stay consistent and healthy as they play four matches in the next 10 days and cannot afford to fall in the standings. They’ll face favorable matchups against the Montreal Impact (5-6-6) on the road, the Columbus Crew (9-10-1) in a home/away series and the New England Revolution (5-9-5) on the road before returning home on August 5.
“You want to get every point possible,” coach Jim Curtin said. “On paper, these games are very important because of where Montreal and Columbus sit in the standings. We have three games in a week’s time where you can either see some real separation between one of us if you can grab all three or you can see where nothing happens, which would help none of us. We have to be aggressive in trying to get points on the road now because we started slow and the strength of schedule here will be difficult for us.”
One of the factors that is out of the Union’s control in the next week is the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Union could be without starting goalie Andre Blake (Jamaica) and forward Chris Pontius (USA), who will be in uniform for their national teams until possibly July 26, depending on how the results pan out. Blake would especially be a loss in these games, as he currently ranks second in the MLS in shutouts with seven on the year.
“The combination of the Gold Cup and of the schedule, it’s a challenge,” Curtin said. “The national team has a job to do, but we’re stronger when Andre and Chris are here to choose from. We’re a little short-handed. Fabian Herbers also had a sports hernia surgery so we lose him. … We’re a little thin in some spots but it’s an opportunity for guys to step up.”
The Union is currently riding a three-match unbeaten streak where they’ve gone 2-0-1. It has not fared well on the road, however. They’ve won just one road game on the season and are just 1-4-3 on the year.

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