After tensions boil over between Burke, Dockal, Union look to regroup

BRONX, N.Y. — The Philadelphia Union didn’t show enough fight early, falling into a two-goal hole after just 10 minutes on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in a 3-1 loss to New York City FC

Then at halftime, they were showing too much. 

Forward Cory Burke had to be separated from midfield teammate Borek Dockal as the two walked off the field. Visibly upset, Burke was held back by a Union staffer while the rest of the team walked into the third-base dugout and into the locker room. 

It came after the two also had a verbal altercation on the field late in the first half. 

“We wanted more of a response from Cory at halftime in the talk and some of the responsibilities with [Alexander] Callens and not letting him advance the ball and dribble 40 yards into our team,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “I know he scored a great goal, which is good for us, but at the same time we’re only going to have success if everybody’s on the same page and everybody is pulling in the same direction.”

When the team emerged for the start of the second half, Dockal and the nine other players who started the game huddled on the field. Ilsinho stood with the fourth official ready to come on and Burke, who was subbed off, shook his head as he walked toward the bench. 

Cameras then showed the Jamaican international, who along with Dockal didn’t speak to the media after the game, crying as the second half began.

Afterward, Curtin was asked if Burke would learn from the incident.

“I hope so,” Curtin said. “He’s a great kid. He’s had a great season for us, he’s a big part of our success. I can’t say anything negative about the kid. He’s done an amazing job for us.”

While the optics were bad, the frustration was understandable following the Union’s performance in the first half on Decision Day presented by AT&T. 

With a chance to secure a home Knockout Round playoff game with a victory and finish as high as third, the Union instead slide all the way to sixth and face another trip to The Bronx this week. Philadelphia closes the regular season with consecutive losses. 

“That’s part of the game,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “Guys get into it, the emotion is high, the intensity gets revved up. I don’t see no issue with that. It’s just a matter of when the ball gets played again to be able to focus and concentrate and do a good job.”

Added midfielder Fafa Picault: “Football is a game of emotions, but that stays in house. We deal with that ourselves.”

In fact, Bedoya drew positives from the altercation. Passion and intensity are necessary this time of year, he explained. It was just a bit misplaced. 

“We talked about being a team, all 11 guys needed to get a result. We don’t have that one guy to bail us out,” Bedoya said. “We need all 11 players on the same page. That’s why you see stuff like Cory and Borek going at it. You need some of that too. That tells you guys are passionate, are into it and want to get stuff done. It’s fine to have a fiery edge.”