Inside Doop: Union reignite playoff hopes

Inside Doop: Union reignite playoff hopes
September 30, 2013, 7:00 pm
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The Union celebrate Conor Casey's goal in the team's 1-0 win over Kansas City on Friday. (USA Today Images)

Leave it to the Union to follow their worst winless streak of the year with their best win of the year.

And now, following Philly’s massive 1-0 win in Kansas City on Friday night, the Union are right back in solid playoff contention after spiraling down the Eastern Conference standings.

How did they manage to beat one of the league’s top teams on the road after going winless in their previous five games? What now lies ahead for them heading into the final month of the regular season? Let’s take a look in this week’s “Inside Doop.”

Three thoughts about Friday’s game
1. With the cries for a lineup shakeup growing louder by the day, John Hackworth indeed opted to make a couple of changes in Kansas City. But they weren’t changes that seemed to be particularly popular as the Union manager took leading scorer Jack McInerney and leading assist man Sebastien Le Toux out in favor of a defensive-oriented, five-midfield lineup that featured two holding midfielders. The Union still gave up space in the midfield and allowed a few good SKC chances. But thanks to some hold-on-for-dear-life defending, they weathered the storm to escape with an impressive road shutout. Hackworth, who’s been under a ton of heat this past month, should be commended for that.

2. Of course, the Union could have very easily left Kansas City with a loss, if not for the superb play of Zac MacMath. The Union goalkeeper was at his very best, especially in the first half when he ran into the goal post punching away a Benny Feilhaber free kick shortly before thwarting Feilhaber on a breakaway. MacMath also made a jumping save on US national team star Graham Zusi in the 28th minute. If this wasn’t the best game of MacMath’s career, it was certainly close.

3. After getting shut out in three straight games, the Union’s floundering offense finally got a shot of life when Conor Casey ended the scoreless drought with his 10th goal of the season. But it was really a team goal as Danny Cruz made a terrific one-on-one move to break free of his defender and Michael Farfan (who had one of his best games of the year and was unlucky not to score) put a big shot on net after Cruz’s cross. It was one of the only scoring chances the Union had all night, but after misfiring on so many over the past month, it might have been karma that they scored on their one true opportunity.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union have actually done well on the road this season with a 5-6-4 record. But they haven’t been as good as they should be at home. Can they improve upon their 6-4-5 record at PPL Park when lowly Toronto FC pays a visit on Saturday? If they can’t beat one of the league’s worst teams at home (especially after beating one of the league’s best teams on the road), it will show they’re not truly a playoff team.

2. Injuries will be a concern heading into Saturday’s game as Keon Daniel (left groin strain) will look to play after missing Friday’s game and Sheanon Williams and Cruz will look to rebound from knocks they suffered in Kansas City. If all three of those guys can’t go, how Hackworth configures the lineup could be interesting.

3. Will McInerney remain on the bench? The team’s only All-Star and co-leading scorer hasn’t started in the last two games and three of the past five contests. But if the Union hope to make the playoffs, they’re going to need the 21-year-old to start playing more -- and scoring more.

Stat of the week
Casey’s goal Friday was the 60th of his MLS career. The veteran striker now has double-digit goal tallies in four of the seven years he’s been in the league.

Quote of the week
“It was about time.”

– Casey, on the Union snapping their 346-minute scoreless streak

Player of the week
MacMath finished with five saves and just about all of them were difficult ones. The Union goalie now leads the league in shutouts with 11.