Philadelphia Union Flag

Twenty-seven days and counting until the U.S. Open Cup Final in what will be a defining moment in the 2015 season when Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union take the field on Sept. 30 at PPL Park.

How defining? Well, that depends on who you ask.

For the Union, there's the chance to capture the team's first trophy amidst a season at a crossroads.

Glass half empty: Philadelphia, missing the team's top attacking and defensive player, sits last in the Eastern Conference, last in the points per game table and last in the Supporters' Shield standings.

Glass half full: Philadelphia, in the team's first full season under head coach Jim Curtin, are two points out of playoff position and could mathematically move above the red line with a win on Saturday.

Below is a bit of both perspectives from three individuals close to the Philadelphia Union camp, along with comments from Curtin during his weekly press conference on Wednesday.

Matthew DeGeorge, Delco Times assistant sports editor (read)
On the Union's playoff hopes...

All that’s left for the Union this season — with four road games at teams currently in playoff position remaining among their seven contests — is to gear up for the U.S. Open Cup final Sept. 30. There, Curtin has said, he hopes to help his team discover that elusive feeling of what it’s like to win, to accomplish a concrete goal and have some sense of achievement.
JP Dellacamera, Philadelphia Union play-by-play announcer (listen)
On the Philadelphia Union’s chances in the U.S. Open Cup Final…
I give them a great chance. In Major League Soccer in a one-off game, I think everybody has a chance regardless of what the competition is…It’s one game. There’s a good history between those two clubs. Some big games both teams have won in the other team’s stadium. I think Philly’s best hope is that they’re playing at home. I think the crowd will be good. I think it will be solid in their favor. We’ll see who is going to be playing in goal at that time. We’ll see if Maurice Edu is healthy. I think they need Mo to be healthy so the key would be to get him in a game or two before that. I do think the Union would have a very good chance of lifting that trophy but I would say the same of Sporting Kansas City.
On if winning the U.S. Open Cup would make for a successful 2015 season…
Honestly, I think successful is too strong of a word. It depends also on where they finish. Like last year, just a few points off of that final playoff spot? Do they win their last five games and show signs that maybe next year is the year for them? Or do they finish in last place yet they have the trophy? I think the one thing that I would say for sure — while I say successful would be a strong word, I don’t think they would use that word — I think if you win that trophy, there’s not a lot of teams that can win a trophy in the first six years of their existence. I know it’s been done in this league. Chicago Fire won MLS Cup in 1998. But that doesn’t happen. I don’t think it’s happened since then where a first-year team has won an MLS Cup. I know the Seattle Sounders won a few Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophies and I believe in their first year, they won that. It’s happened but it doesn’t happen often. But I think if they can get that trophy, it’s the first one for this team, they would be in CONCACAF Champions League next year. That would also be a plus because they would know that the team needs to be upgraded, just like D.C. United did…I think this could be a jumpstart if you will to the Union making good improvements on the field and being a more competitive team next year during the regular season. But it could start with that trophy on September 30.
Kevin Kinkead, CBS 3 reporter (listen)
On the U.S. Open Cup serving as a turnaround for the Union…
There’s eight games left and there’s only one that matters. It’s the Open Cup Final…We all know, everybody knows that this team doesn’t have a chance in the playoffs anyway. The best case scenario is to think D.C. United 2013. That team was terrible, won three or four games then went out to Salt Lake and won the Open Cup Final, got rid of half their roster and then were playing in Champions League next year and then were contending for the Shield. I don’t think it’s unrealistic. I don’t think Philly is D.C. necessarily but that’s the model to follow.
On the U.S. Open Cup final changing the season’s outlook…
If they win that game, the sky’s the limit. I know there’s a large portion of the fan base who says you can’t sugarcoat the season with this one thing because they’ve been terrible for the rest of the season. I agree with that. But I don’t know why you can’t treat it as two separate things. I think you can say, ‘Hey, they’ve been good in the Open Cup. They did very well at that. The front office helped out with the New York thing. They performed very well in that.’ And you can also say, ‘They sucked in the regular season.’ Those two things are mutually exclusive. You can treat them different ways. But if they lose that game, then who know’s what we’re talking about. 
Jim Curtin, Philadelphia Union head coach (watch)
On the return of Maurice Edu…
It’s complicated with Mo (Maurice Edu), as well. What is the timeline? We have a plan in place already for him and a way we’re going to approach it each day. And then also what’s the right amount of games for him to have before you give him that big of a game in the final? We have a plan. Hopefully his rehab continues to progress and it’s seamless and we can get him the necessary minutes before a big game in a final. Because you need live action to get ready for a big moment like that…There is no fitness like the games so we have to really monitor that. It’s tricky. Kansas City’s doing the same type of stuff. They have little injuries that are going on as well with their group and trying to get guys back. So it will be down to the final weeks in preparation. It is a little unique this year in that you have such a long build up to it. You have got to find that balance of not being overly conservative by not wanting to get guys injured versus just continuing to play, all the while still trying to push for good results down to the end.
On the team’s goalkeeper position…
Andre (Blake) is obviously away with Jamaica, we knew that part of the plan. Brian Sylvestre has returned to training this week for the first time…John (McCarthy) will do a good job for us on the weekend like he has done in the past…He’s done a good job, whether it’s the Open Cup by stepping up when he’s been out for a little while, he’s adjusted well to it. Would you like someone to grab ahold of it and just run with it? Yeah. We’ve had injuries, international duty and different things that have affected that. You wish it was just one guy but we’ve had a merry-go-round at goalkeeper this year to say the least.