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247 days and counting: why Union’s winless streak threatens MLS record books

Philadelphia last won a league game when Barack Obama was president. But not so long ago they appeared destined for success

On 27 August 2016, the Philadelphia Union beat Sporting Kansas City 2-0 on a cloudy night in Chester, Pennsylvania. Roland Alberg and Tranquillo Barnetta scored the goals, and goalkeeper Andre Blake kept his sixth clean sheet of the year. The mood around the team was buoyant. The Union, after years of mediocrity, were starting to turn their fortunes around. They had just secured back-to-back victories, and also set a team record for home wins in a season. They were third place in the East, and looking certain to make their first playoff appearance since 2011. Coach Jim Curtin couldn’t stop singing his team’s praises. “This is a very good team,” he said. “We should be shooting for the top of the East … It’s only going to get better.”

In fact, it was only going to get worse. The victory over the Kansas City would be the Union’s last MLS victory in 2016. They were able to sneak into the playoffs on goal differential, where they were promptly eliminated by Toronto. Now, they are without a victory in 2017. Their winless streak stands at 15 regular-season games. The last time the Union got three points, the nation was still cringing over Ryan Lochte’s frat-boy chicancery in Rio, Sia’s Cheap Thrills was the top song on the radio, and Barack Obama was president. What a difference 247 days makes.

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