By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It seems as if the matches get bigger and bigger each week for the Philadelphia Union as they chase a postseason berth. That trend continues on Saturday afternoon when they visit the Montreal Impact.
With 46 points, Philadelphia is right in the middle of Eastern Conference playoff chase. They are currently tied with Montreal and Chicago for fourth in the conference, but right now they lose the tiebreaker between the teams, so if the season ended today they would be on the outside looking in. But they are also just two points behind third-place Houston. So with two regular season matches left, needless to say, it is a very fluid situation.
Philadelphia has put themselves in this position thanks to some late match heroics the last couple of weeks. Back on October 5th, the Union pulled out a dramatic 1-0 result over Toronto FC thanks to a Kleberson goal late in stoppage time. Then last Saturday, Jack McInerney broke a long scoreless drought with a goal at the edge of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw against D.C. United.
“It’s been a fun roller coaster ride,” Union defender Amobi Okugo tells KYW Newsradio about the last couple of weeks. “It just shows that you have to focus for 90 minutes because you never know what’s going to happen. The last two games we scored late in the game. It just shows our will to keep fighting and it shows how important the playoffs are for us.”
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While they have been magnified here down the stretch, late match heroics have actually been a pretty constant theme for the Union this season, and Okugo says that is great for their confidence.
“It just lets us know that we are always going to be in the game if we just stay sound defensively and keep plugging away, we’ll get our chances and we’ll finally put it away,” Okugo says. “In particular last week, Jack was able to get back on the scoring sheet, so that’s especially good for his confidence.”
This will be the third match-up between the Union and Impact this season. The first game was a bona fide shootout, the Impact winning 5-3 on May 25th in Montreal. Then on August 31st in Chester, the two teams played to a scoreless draw.
“This is a very important game,” Okugo says. “It’s going to be a war. Because they know we have a chance to jump them (in the standings) if we win and they have a chance to separate themselves if they get a result. So this game could be the deciding factor with who’s going to make the playoffs.”
Okugo says he is focused on trying to slow down one the top scorers in MLS in this one.
“We’ve got to find a way to stop (Marco) Di Vaio,” Okugo says. “He has (19) goals on the season and we can’t allow him space to punish us.”
Montreal actually played on Wednesday night, losing to the Galaxy 1-0.
Saturday’s match will get underway at 2:00pm.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.