In their second year in the league, the Philadelphia Union can empathize with the struggles of the Vancouver Whitecaps in their first.
Two of the last teams added to the MLS meet for the second time as Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia visits last-place Vancouver on Saturday, trying to extend a four-game unbeaten streak.
The Union (6-3-4) moved into a tie with New York for first place in the Eastern Conference after a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake last Saturday. It's an impressive turnaround for a team that went 8-7-15 last year to finish with the league's third-worst record.
Now that the club is contending, Philadelphia has higher expectations and knows it needs to do a better job at protecting leads. Real Salt Lake scored the tying goal in 53rd minute last Saturday while Colorado converted in the 63rd minute of a 1-all draw the previous week.
"We'll keep playing hard and training hard," said Keon Daniel, who scored his first career goal last Saturday. "We're a good team and everything will work out if we keep working like this."
Despite Vancouver's record, Philadelphia expects to be challenged by the Whitecaps. The Union defeated the Whitecaps 1-0 on March 26 behind Faryd Mondragon's shutout and a goal by Carlos Ruiz in the 77th minute.
"We expect, especially them being at home, pressure from the beginning," coach Peter Nowak said. "It's going to be a physical game like it was in the beginning of the season."
Vancouver (1-6-8) remains winless since its season-opening 4-2 victory over Toronto on March 19. It settled for a 2-2 draw against Seattle last Saturday to set a MLS single-season record for consecutive games without a win.
The Whitecaps seem to be coming close to breaking through, however, taking away a point in five of their last seven games.
Vancouver gave up two goals three minutes apart against the Sounders, but the Whitecaps continued to press and Eric Hassli scored his second goal on the night on an incredible half-volley from outside the penalty area in the 85th minute.
"I give our guys a lot of credit for coming back and getting that one," coach Tom Soehn said. "Big players step up at big times and what a great goal by Eric."
The Whitecaps are 0-1-2 since Soehn took over following Teitur Thordarson's dismissal. Saturday will be Soehn's home debut.
Soehn is hopeful that as experience comes, so will wins. Vancouver has completed two home-and-away series, going 0-1-1 in the second meeting.
"Anytime you play a team for the second time, you know a little bit more about them," said Soehn, "and for our team that doesn't have a whole lot of MLS experience, second time through you're going to have a better feel of what you're up against."