After being denied a maiden MLS Cup appearance last year due to COVID-19, the Philadelphia Union certainly has no lack of motivation to play at the top this year.
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Just before last year’s Eastern Finals, an outbreak of COVID-19 affected 11 players on the team, including several starters. Captain Alejandro Bedoya and goalkeeper Andre Blake notably missed the game against New York City FC, which the Pennsylvania club ended up winning 2-1.
Almost 11 months later, they retaliated against NYCFC – 3-1, again in the East Final – and meet Los Angeles FC in the final. Both teams finished the season with 67 points, but the California team won the Supporter’s Shield on the tiebreaker.
This revenge certainly had a positive effect within the troupe, to say the least. Especially since the victory was achieved by a comeback.
“I have this confidence, you know, that we’re here for a reason,” Blake said Sunday after the game, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. We were here last year and a lot of us couldn’t play.”
“I was just relaxed, I was free, I wasn’t worried,” Blake said of his state of mind as his rivals led the way. So I had no doubts – even if it were me who was going to come up there and score -; I knew that somehow we would find a way to get to the top.”
Much has changed in the Union in recent years. Head coach Jim Curtin certainly had something to do with it. Arrived in 2014, he managed to lead his team to the top step by step.
Bedoya, who joined the team in 2016, is well placed to talk about it.
“When I came here, there were a lot of things that weren’t really good enough,” he said. And you see how much we’ve changed in terms of the type of players we’re bringing in now, our academy is improving and just the mentality. It’s a culture change.”
“My credit goes to Jim and his staff of instructors,” added the captain.
The MLS Cup takes place at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m.