CHESTER, Penn. — Talk about ending your first season with some big matches.
Despite being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Philadelphia Union will finish up their inaugural year with a stroll down murderers' row: home to the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls, and away to the Columbus Crew.
“They are competitive games and it’s an opportunity for us to showcase some of the things we’re doing here,” Union striker Alejandro Moreno said. “For us, it’s another chance to continue to connect with our fans, to continue to do the things that have made us successful here at home and hopefully we can make the most out of those games."
It begins with the marquee matchup against Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and the rest of the Galaxy at PPL Park on Thursday night (8 pm ET, ESPN2). Despite having clinched their postseason berth a few weeks ago, the Galaxy are not on cruise control. Bruce Arena's side are still in a dogfight with Real Salt Lake for the Supporters’ Shield. The fact that it will be competitive will obviously help make it better for the fans, and for the players, it provides an opportunity to continue to build on the work already done this season.
“It’s good for everybody to try and make themselves better,” said Moreno, who played for the Galaxy from 2002-2004. “I think that’s a goal everyone has in mind. Whatever they do out there, they have that goal in mind. They’re going to make the decisions to make them successful."
“It’s going to be about showing ourselves and more importantly to show everyone else that we can be a team that is competitive when we do the things that make us a good team,” he added.
The Galaxy have built their squad around their marquee players, but have also gotten contributions from their role players. No matter who is out there, the league leaders are a formidable side to contend with; however, in recent weeks, they have struggled to match the scintillating form they showed early in the season. And that could be the Union's chance, especially playing at PPL Park, where they have lost only twice in 11 matches.
“With the Galaxy, they started the season very well and they hit a rough patch there in the middle of the season that goes to show you that it happens in this long of a season," Moreno said. "[But] no matter what you have on the field, you still have to show up and play. For Thursday, no matter who they have on the field, they’ll have to play in a place that we think is very tough to come into.”