CHESTER, Pa. – There are bad losses, there are really bad losses and then there was the Philadelphia Union’s 1-0 defeat to Toronto FC on May 26.
The result gave Toronto their first points of the season and caused then-Union manager Peter Nowak – who was let go two weeks later – to publicly rip his team for a lack of execution and desire.
On Saturday, the Union will play their first game at BMO Field (1 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US) since that ugly defeat, and it will certainly be on their minds.
“Nobody likes the feeling we had on that day,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “Those are the kinds of feelings you have as an athlete or coach that you use, to save and pick out when you need them. If that’s a little extra motivation, we think we can use it to our advantage.”
HIGHLIGHTS: TOR vs PHI
Hackworth was quick to note that Toronto will probably be fueled by similar motivation, since the Union routed them 3-0 at PPL Park on July 8. Paul Mariner’s last-place club is also coming off a midweek loss to the Chicago Fire that officially knocked them out of the playoff race.
The Union, who are only five points in front of Toronto in the standings, may not be too far behind them as far as mathematical playoff possibilities go. But, according to Hackworth, his players haven’t given up on the season.
“I think they’re in a great place,” the Union manager said. “It’s been a good week and a half of training. When you have these breaks and ramp up the intensity in your training sessions, you can get a pretty good idea of where teams are – if they say, ‘Oh man, are you kidding me? We don’t have a game this weekend and we’ve still got to train hard?’ or if they really attack it. And our guys have certainly gone after it.”
If nothing else, the Union hope to show Toronto they are far better than the team they brought to Canada back in May when they were severely outplayed. And Hackworth said they will “do everything possible” to show them that, which means pushing numbers forward and trying to dictate the tempo, even though they’re on the road.
“That was not the kind of performance that was acceptable to anyone in the locker room or our club,” Hackworth said of the May loss. “We want to make sure we go and put our best foot forward in that environment.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.