Three-game stretch will define Union's season


With another loss in the books and a stacked schedule ahead, the playoff-hungry Union are coming home for what could be looked back on as the crux of their once promising season.

With three matches in the next 10 days, starting with the New England Revolution on Wednesday at PPL Park, and missing starting goalkeeper and captain Faryd Mondragon to a broken finger, the message is clear for the young Union -- its win now or find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.

Its simple, we just have to win games, said Sebastien Le Toux, who scored his first run-of-play goal all season in Saturdays 2-1 road loss to Real Salt Lake. We have two games coming at home, one Wednesday and one Saturday, we just need wins. With every game that comes, we need to make the most of it.

Yet, despite the sudden downturn that has the Union winless in their last six games, coach Peter Nowak doesnt want his team looking at standings or lost result points. For him, its all about working to control whats in the teams power to control. As it stands, the Union, at fourth in the Eastern Conference, are holding the ninth spot in the 10-team playoff picture.

We have to be smart and dont look back, Nowak said. Everything is in front of us and we can control our destiny. We can control how the games in front of us can be played. Itll be important to follow up on the performance against Real Salt Lake, fix some things and go back to the way we started the season.

Originally planned for Aug. 28, the match against the 4-11-11 Revolution, who were defeated by the Union, 3-0, on July 17 at Gillette Stadium, was pushed back because of Hurricane Irene. And while the storm headlined all the talk leading into their eventually postponed clash, this time around, the 8-7-10 Union have another type of cloudy sky to deal with -- the loss of Mondragon.

The captain left Saturdays game against Real Salt Lake at halftime and was replaced by 20-year-old backup Zac MacMath, who did not allow a goal. The injury, as reported by Mondragon himself on Twitter, is a broken finger and should keep him out of the Union lineup between two and four weeks. The team could not confirm a timeline for recovery.

Hes our captain and everybody knows the responsible that comes with that, Nowak said. I think Zac MacMath came in, was calm, secure and I was pleased with his game. Well see what Faryds status is. Hes a very big piece in what were trying to do.

The Unions first-round selection and fifth-overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, MacMath is expected to get the tap on Wednesday to start his first-ever MLS game. Coming in for Mondragon at the half on Saturday was the youngsters first professional action.

Obviously not the way I wanted to get my debut, in a loss or with Faryd getting hurt, MacMath said on Monday. But it definitely takes some of the nerves away for future games.

I thought I did OK. Maybe a little sloppy on a couple saves, but overall, my main goal was to keep the team in the game and I think I did that.

The Revolution continue their season to forget, without a win since July 20. The storied franchise, coming off an unprecedented 17-day break, has given up nine goals in their last four games. They have two draws and two losses during that span but hope the rare break in play will spark a change.

Its important to take some time off and really use that time to give yourself a mental break and also give yourself a physical break, Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis told So after youve taken a mental and a physical break, then you come back out and you exert yourself on the practice field and hopefully get ready for the game.

While the Revolution have had the time to prepare, it will be the Union who are coming in with the backs against the wall. And its how they react to that scenario which will determine their future.

Win every game now, we have to take every point we can and make the playoffs as soon as we can, Le Toux said. We need to be ready for Wednesday.

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