Home cooking: Despite slow home start, second-place Philadelphia Union expect PPL Park to be a fortress

CHESTER, Pa. – Through their first five home games of the 2013 season, the Philadelphia Union were 1-2-2 while being outscored 10-6.

Since then? They’ve recorded three straight league shutouts at PPL Park, while outscoring their opponents 7-0.

Philadelphia will put that home shutout streak on the line when they host FC Dallas on Saturday at PPL Park (5:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), knowing that if they want the respect they believe they deserve, home dominance is crucial.

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“We said it earlier in the year that we wanted to try to make this place a very difficult place to play,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I think we’re evolving as a team. I think we’re playing better soccer and I think we’re attacking more.”

The Union are coming off one of their best wins of the season this past weekend when they took advantage of the Red Bulls going down a man to post a 3-0 win that propelled them into second place in the Eastern Conference. That win followed an equally dominating 3-0 home win against Columbus two-and-a-half weeks before that.

In fact, the last time the Union surrendered a home goal in league play was on May 15.

“I think we’re just playing more like a team now,” Union midfielder Michael Farfan said. “We all know each other a lot better than in the beginning of the season and everything has started to click for us.”

Added striker Antoine Hoppenot: “We’re really hitting our stride right now. And it’s the perfect time to do that.”

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For Philadelphia (7-5-4) to continue their recent hot stretch at PPL, they’ll need to find a way to beat FC Dallas (8-3-5) for the first time in franchise history. The Union are 0-2-3 all-time against their Western Conference rivals.

But almost exactly three years after PPL Park first opened its doors, Philadelphia hardly seem concerned about their past struggles against FC Dallas. They're of the opinion Dallas should be the ones concerned.

“We want to make sure people know when they come here they’re going to have a really tough game on their hands,” Farfan said. “And they’ll be lucky to come out with even one point.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

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