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11/23 FINAL
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Philadelphia Union return to PPL Park seeking home-field advantage after tepid 2014 start

CHESTER, Pa. – Over the past month, the friendly confines of PPL Park have not been especially friendly for the Philadelphia Union.

Not only has the team lost a couple of ugly games to D.C. United and the New England Revolution, but fans have expressed their displeasure in the form of boos and chants of, “Fire Hackworth.”.

Nevertheless, following a 1-1 West Coast trip, manager John Hackworth and the Union are still eager to return home for Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps at PPL Park (7 pm ET, MLS Live).

“I don’t think our players think about that too much,” Hackworth said when asked about the possibility of fans booing. “I think we’re happy to be here. This is our home. This is where we’re based out of every single day. This is where we feel the most comfortable. We just have to establish that – re-establish that.”

The Union certainly have some work to do in establishing PPL Park as a fortress they had hoped it would be this season. The Union currently sport a dismal 1-2-3 home record and have the fourth-worst home record (1.51 points per game) in MLS since joining the league in 2010, better than only Chivas USA (1.03), Toronto FC (1.27) and D.C. United (1.35).

“The last couple of home games have not been the kind of performances that [are] acceptable for this club,” Hackworth said. “We have to make sure that with the support, the fans, the passion that’s in this building, that we play to a level that allows us to be successful.”

Adding to the urgency is that, due to the World Cup break and a couple of road games once they return, Saturday’s contest will be the Union’s last league match at PPL Park until July 12, although they will host at least one match in the US Open Cup and would host a second if they beat Harrisburg on June 17.

A win on Saturday would also allow Philadelphia to head into the break on their first two-game winning streak of what has so far been a very disappointing season.

“This is a really important game,” Hackworth said. “We’re coming back home and coming off a good result on the road – but we know we have to put them together. … We feel that if we string together two victories that we’ll put ourselves back in a place that we all want to be.”

So even if recent history suggests otherwise, the Union feel their home-field advantage can allow them to cool down the Whitecaps, who Hackworth termed, “one of the best teams in the league right now.”

“It’s still our home,” striker Andrew Wenger said. “We don’t have to travel. It’s where we belong, and we’re excited to be back.” 

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.