CHESTER, Pa. – Recently, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth went to the team’s sales office and made a few phone calls to season ticket holders.
It was done mostly as a ‘thank you’ to the fans leading up to their final game of the season Saturday against the Red Bulls at PPL Park (1:30 pm ET, NBC; LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com). But some of the responses he got surprised him.
“It seems like a lot of fans have forgotten what we’ve done in the past four months and are still angry about what happened in the first three months of the year,” Hackworth said. “My hope is that we pack the house on Saturday, play one of our main rivals and put them in a little bit of a questioning mark where they are going into the playoffs.”
The Union have long since lost any playoff hopes of their own – in large part due to a dreadful start to the season before Hackworth replaced former manager Peter Nowak – but “packing the house” for Saturday’s game shouldn’t be a problem. It never is when the rival Red Bulls come to town.
“Red Bull is Red Bull,” Hackworth said. “It doesn’t matter where we are on the table or where they are. We’re ready. It’s our last home game. We’re going to try to put a lot of smiles on the fans’ faces and let everyone walk out of this building feeling very good about the 2013 version of the Philadelphia Union.”
The Union have gotten quite familiar with playing the Red Bulls at the end of the year. They also closed the regular season against their rivals from New York in 2011 and played their last home game of the 2010 campaign against them in front of an electric crowd at PPL.
The Union won that 2010 home finale, one of the best moments of the franchise’s inaugural season.
“Just because of the rivalry alone means there’s a lot on the line,” Hackworth said. “And the fact that it’s the last game of the year for us and we want to close out on a very positive note is really important. I don’t think it’s going to be tough for me to get these guys motivated for Saturday.”
Hackworth went on to say that expects his players will have “red in their eyes” for the game. Center back Amobi Okugo thinks that will happen, too.
“New York is a rivalry game,” Okugo said. “We haven’t beat them this season so we have to give the home fans something to remember going into the offseason.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.