Thanks to the hefty Leagues Cup break, it has been 42 days since the Union played a game in MLS.
That changes today as the Union returns to MLS play at DC United.
Where does the Union stand now, and what does the road ahead look like?
The Union left the Leagues Cup with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup clinched. A bounce-back win against LIGA MX side Monterrey in the third-place game ensured that.
However, the sour taste in their mouth still remains. That is thanks to a 4-1 demolition handed to them by Lionel Messi and Inter Miami in the semifinals.
With that heartache hopefully in the rearview, it is time for the Union to look ahead.
Now, one more trophy is up for grabs before the Union possibly leaves 2023 empty-handed.
MLS Standings Going into DC
The Union is in a fine place in the standings and an even better one after the first weekend of MLS being back. The Union had the week off after being in the final four of the Leagues Cup.
In that week, everything fell the Union’s way standings-wise. Mainly, Supporters Shield favorites FC Cincinnati lost. This leaves the Union 11 points back with a game in hand.
For the Union themselves, they sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Fourth in overall MLS Standings. For all the hiccups this season, they’ll take it. The New England Revolution sat ahead of them in 2nd in the East. However, New England is going through it currently. They transferred their star GK to Europe (albeit for a lot of money), and their head coach, Bruce Arena, has been placed on an indefinite leave of absence.
The Union may not catch Cincy. However, they should have no issue earning second in the East.
Also, do not fret about Messi. Miami went all in on the Leagues Cup and US Open Cup. It’s a place that may very well see them win their first two club trophies just weeks apart. Messi and his friends can’t play as much as they have been. Miami is still dead last in MLS, and there is no way they can keep getting results when they come back to MLS. Maybe everyone should be concerned for next year, but for now, it would take a miracle for Messi to drag Miami from the basement of MLS.
Time for New Faces Post-Leagues Cup
The Union found its identity in the Leagues Cup. That identity is that they should return and stay in the 4-4-2 formation. We also learned that it is time for Jesus Bueno to be a regular on the team. Bueno was a breakout star of the tournament after getting his first string of constant minutes with the Union.
Unfortunately, the Union also started to come to terms with the fact that Mikael Uhre may not be trustworthy up top. Before the summer transfer window closed, the Union brought in another striker. Tai Baribo joined the team but only saw about 7 seconds of field time in the Leagues Cup. Now that the Union is back in MLS, we should really see what Baribo brings to the table.
The Union put a lot of extra minutes on their legs in the Leagues Cup. Although Jim Curtin is not known for it, look for him to possibly play with different lineup formations and try to spread minutes out between the whole team.
The Union’s Last Wager for 2023 Hardware
The Union came into 2023 with high hopes of adding to their trophy cabinet.
After faltering in the CCL, the US Open Cup, and now the Leagues Cup, the only trophies left up for grabs are the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup.
The Union has some work to do in the standings, so a run for the MLS Cup very well could be the Union’s last option if they don’t want to leave 2023 empty-handed.
Photo: Wes Shephard/PHLSportsNation