CHESTER, Pa. – A common narrative around the Philadelphia Union this season has been that the club has won matchups in 2019 that likely would have been losses in years past.
The reward for a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference is a long-awaited second home playoff game in franchise history. Expectations are high and the fanbase is clamoring for a change in fortunes after the Union have lost three U.S. Open Cup finals and never made it past the conference semifinals.
“I think our club’s gotten better, I think our roster’s gotten stronger, I think our mentality now if we go down a goal in a game is different,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “I think that we’ve evolved as a club. We have some Homegrown kids that are really contributing in big ways.
“For this to be considered the best team in Union history they have to win a playoff game,” Sons of Ben president Matt Gendaszek said.
Picault, who has spent much of his playing career in Europe, agreed.
“We’re very satisfied with what we’ve done this year, we’re proud of it, we broke a few in-house records, but we know it’s not enough,” Picault said. “We don’t want to keep a medium mentality and just settle for average.”
A standing room-only crowd is expected at Talen Energy Stadium, too. Philadelphia captain Alejandro Bedoya, back after a late-season injury, expects the team to feed off that.
“It’s playoffs man, this is a whole different level, the intensity of the game,” Bedoya said. “The LAFCgame at home, that felt like a playoff intensity type of game, so that’s what we need to do. We need to match that type of intensity.
“We take their first five-, 10-, 15-minute punches we’ll be fine. We just can’t concede a stupid early goal like we did against New York City and in past games.”