CHESTER, Pa. -- With three wins in their last four league games, the Unions trip back to MLS relevance has been a speedy one.
Yet, the real test of whether the resurgent club has what it takes to make a playoff push will come on Saturday at PPL Park, when the Union take on the expansion Montreal Impact, the team directly in front of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
It's an important game for us, said midfielder Brian Carroll. They are just ahead of us in the table and we have a few games in hand. We need to take every opportunity we have to get points and jump up in table. Weve done OK to sort of get back on the map to this point, but we need to continue to push forward.
Holding a 5-9-2 record and 17 points, the ninth-place Union need to rattle off an impressive winning streak to move into playoff contention. Eight points behind the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final playoff spot, the Union can take another nice step forward against the 6-11-3 Impact.
There's a little extra motivation because the Impact have a couple games in hand over us and were a couple points behind, said midfielder turned central defender Amobi Okugo, a major part in the Unions turnaround. The game means a little more. It's kind of like a six-point swing or however they say. We'll look to give the home fans a game for them to forget Wednesdays Open Cup loss.
The Impact are 1-3 in their last four games and during that stretch have been out-scored, 10-3. Union striker Jack McInerney took the importance of Saturdays contest a step further, despite 18 games remaining on the schedule.
It is a must-win situation because they are right in front of us in the standings, said McInerney. These are important points.
Aside from an opportunity for the Union, the Impact will enter PPL Park with a familiar face on the roster. Selected in the expansion draft from the Union this past off-season, Justin Mapp has two goals and two assists in 16 games with the MLS newest club.
Its going to be good to see Justin Mapp, said Okugo. There are also guys from the PA area that we know with Zarek Valentin (Manheim Township) and Andrew Wenger (Warwick High School in Lancaster). It's good to see guys coming back to their hometown and Justin coming back to his former team.
Led by red-hot McInerney, who has three goals in his last four games, and Michael Farfan, one goal and two assists in his last three games, the Union offense has scored 10 goals in their last four MLS games.
However, to keep on the same path theyve been traveling, the Union will have to shrug off the rugged run of three games in seven days.
We know that we have a lot of games in July, said captain Carlos Valdes. Mentally, we have to be in a better condition. Its hard for us because were playing almost every three days. The most important thing is how we look in the next games. We hope we can win the next game and still work hard.
E-mail Ryan Bright at email@example.com.