by Justin Diaz
The Flyers' run ended far too early. The Sixers' run ended right around when we expected it to. The Eagles won't play again for three months at the least. In years past, this combination meant that only the Phillies remained to watch. With the incredible success of the team, it's perfectly understandable why some fans may completely refocus all their passion onto them. As of now, though, the Phils are not the best team in the city. It's the Union that is dominating the competition, and it's the Union that deserves recognition.
The Union has achieved success early in this season thanks to a much more defensive approach and incredible goalkeeping by Faryd Mondragon, the all-World caliber Colombian. Do not confuse the low goal-scoring numbers thus far with offensive ineptitude, however. The Union are still capable of the high-octane offense they showed last season, which they proved in Saturday's match with Toronto FC. Six goals, including two apiece for Justin Mapp and future-of-the-franchise Danny Mwanga, marked a team record and an offensive explosion that saw the team nearly double their scoring total for the season (eight entering the match).
The improved defense, coupled with the scoring spurts the Union are capable of, has catapulted them to first-place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points. New York is just two points behind, but the Union has a game in-hand. It is no shock that a team from New York would try to buy their way to the top with elite talent (Thierry Henry is the best player on the Red Bulls), but what they fail to realize is that no one player not named Maradona or Pele will ever be enough to turn a team around.
Look at the Union themselves to see just how important (or insignificant, rather) just one player can be. Last season, Sebastien Le Toux led the entire MLS in points. He was an absolute star for a cellar-dwelling side. He became an instant fan-favorite and a favorite of mine as well; when I decided to buy a Union shirtsey, I got Le Toux without hesitation. This year, however, he seems to have lost his scoring touch, netting just one goal with three assists through eleven games. The team around him has elevated their play, and for that reason they are playing as well as they ever have. It's not just one guy. It's the veteran presence of Mondragon. It's Piotr Nowak knowing the pulse of his team, and how to get the best of them. It's the explosive first step of Mwanga. It's the imposing physicality of Danny Califf on defense. It's the Sons of Ben dooping their faces off at every game, home or away. It's every single person wearing the navy blue and gold, and if you love Philly sports, you should join the movement. Doop your hearts out, Philly, because this team deserves it.