Jim Curtin “has no doubt” Philadelphia Union will bounce back from a chastening midweek defeat when they travel to Columbus Crew on Sunday.
The Union fell 1-0 to lowly Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday, with that their first loss in 10 MLS matches and just their second in 17 outings this campaign.
Another team outside of the Eastern Conference playoff spots are up next at Lower.com Field, where Curtin is expecting a response from his players.
“We recognize that Wednesday night was not good enough. This group has always a good response and I have no doubt that that will be the case on Sunday,” he said.
“Columbus are starting to get guys back healthy and get going again. And they are a champion, if you don’t forget, not to long ago, and are a really dangerous, good talented team.
“It is a really well coached team, a tough team to break down, very good with the ball. On the road in this league it is always difficult, I think our guys know that.”
The home side are indeed showing positive signs of recovery thanks to a run of four games without defeat, which includes wins over Atlanta United and Toronto FC.
Beating Toronto 2-1 in midweek moved Columbus within three points of the playoffs with a game in hand on most, while also further boosting morale in the camp.
“There’s a lot to be pleased about,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “From a results standpoint, it’s our second win on the road, and our seventh result out of nine on the road.
“Winning that game… those are big points. And winning the Trillium Cup for our supporters, we talked about that in the locker room before the game.
“It’s a little thing, but it’s also a big thing, and we’re happy to sweep it and to win two games (against Toronto).”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Columbus Crew – Jacen Russell-Rowe
Russell-Rowe was handed his first MLS start in midweek against former side Toronto and marked the occasion with two assists inside the opening 30 minutes. The teenage forward had previously been used as a substitute in a couple of matches, but he may well be in Porter’s thoughts for more regular starts now.
Philadelphia Union – Jack Elliott
The Union are somewhat shorthanded, with midfielder Jose Martinez the latest to be ruled out following his sending off against the Fire, so Curtin will be relying on his full squad. That will put extra pressure on Elliott, who has started all 17 of Philadelphia’s matches this season, in the engine room – an area of the field that may well be key this weekend.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Union have won their last three matches against Columbus, including a 1-0 win on April 9. Philadelphia have kept four straight clean sheets against the Crew – no team has kept five straight clean sheets against another in regular season play since Sporting Kansas City did so against Portland from 2014-16.
– The Crew are unbeaten in four straight matches following a 2-1 win over Toronto on Wednesday (W2 D2). Prior to this run, Columbus had avoided defeat in just three of their previous eight matches (W1 D2 L5).
– Philadelphia’s nine-match unbeaten run came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Fire on Wednesday. Philadelphia have won two of their past 11 matches (D7 L2) following a club-record five-match winning streak in March-April.
– Russell-Rowe recorded two assists in the opening 30 minutes of his first MLS start on Wednesday, the fastest a player has done so since Davide Chiumiento for the Whitecaps against Toronto in March 2011 (26 minutes).
– Federico Navarro’s goal for the Fire against Philadelphia on Wednesday ended a run of 55 straight games without conceding a goal from outside the box for the Union. The run dated back to November 2020.