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‘Battle-tested’ Philadelphia Union look to recreate magic this postseason



Photo by Carl Gulbish

Three hundred fifty-six days have come and gone since the final whistle of the 2022 MLS Cup silenced the dreams of Philadelphia Union players and supporters alike. The closing moments still linger in the hearts of the Union faithful, a haunting reminder of minutes that separated them from glory. But do not mistake their scars for weakness, for in those moments, a fire of determination has forged within the City of Brotherly Love. The Philadelphia Union are not just seeking redemption; they are demanding it. They yearn for a chance to rewrite history, to reclaim glory, and to make 2023 their year. Brace yourselves, Philadelphia; the Union are back, hungrier than ever, and ready to carve their path through the postseason.

The Boys in Blue are ready for the challenge, and their opponent is a familiar one. The New England Revolution come to town on Saturday for the first of potentially three matchups between the two sides. After spoiling a Supporters’ Shield celebration for the U in 2020, the fifth-seed Revs look to topple the fourth-seed Union again this postseason. After an abysmal 2022 in which New England missed the playoffs, the team showcased astounding resilience, climbing up the table and mounting to make a playoff run in 2023.

Jim Curtin acknowledged the toughness of their opponent by emphasizing the importance of securing home-field advantage, claiming, “We need our fans to be as loud as they normally are… we’re a tough team to beat at home.”

But strength from the Philadelphia Union does not simply generate from their faithful. The “battle-tested” Boys in Blue, as Jim Curtin proclaimed, launch into the MLS Cup Playoffs at nearly full strength. Jose Martinez, a pivotal piece of the Philly puzzle that the team missed in their season finale against New England, returns to the starting lineup Saturday. Additionally, Olivier Mbaizo is “fully healthy” and “is fully training,” making him a viable option to start on the flank for the U.

The only question mark for the Union will be their star center back Jakob Glesnes, who Curtin acknowledged is “day-to-day” with a sports hernia issue. Center back depth is not a problem for Philadelphia, although Curtin acknowledged that stability at such a crucial position is essential for a long playoff run.

The postseason always draws attention to the future, and for the Philadelphia Union, much of this reflects on past success. With confirmation on the departure of Kai Wagner and the almost guaranteed transfer of Julian Carranza in the offseason, questions developed around this being the last year for the Union to make a deep postseason run.

Curtin’s response confirmed the side’s hunger this year, proclaiming, “Last year, we broke every record in the club’s history… I recognize that we did not meet those exact expectations this year, but we’re still a really strong team that can do something special.”

The 2023 MLS Cup Playoff signifies a clean slate for the Philadelphia Union side. In a regular season riddled with injuries and inconsistencies, the Boys in Blue hung to their identity, finishing in the top five of the league for the fourth time in five years. However, the Union’s aspirations go beyond mere statistical achievements. In Philadelphia, success is measured not just by awards in trophy cases but by the grit and desire that comes with resiliency. This postseason, the U are determined to showcase that resilient spirit to write a new, emphatic chapter to their storied history.



Brady Ferguson is a current student at American University. As a Philadelphia native, Brady has followed the Union since 2010 and is an active member of the Sons of Ben.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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