CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union are angry. And they’ve been taking it out on each other.
In the days following a disappointing 2-1 home loss to the Chicago Fire last week, Union manager John Hackworth said the club’s practices were “chippy to say the least.”
Of course, that could prove to be good preparation for Saturday’s Eastern Conference contest against D.C. United (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network), considering games against their I-95 rivals are always chippy.
“I like the fact that our players are a little pissed off,” Hackworth said. “They’re upset with themselves. They’re upset with our performance. And they clearly knew I was upset on Saturday. … It was comical in some ways that we were going at it as hard against each other when we didn’t do that against Chicago to start the game. But I think we’ve put that game behind us and we’re ready to move on.”
Even if Hackworth liked to see his players going after each other in training, center back Jeff Parke revealed “there had to be some talks with Hack and some other coaches telling us to calm down.”
The key, Parke said, is channeling the anger from last weekend’s loss, refocusing and making sure it doesn’t happen again when the Union face a second straight team beneath them in the standings at home.
“There was definitely a lot of anger I had inside after a game like that,” Parke said. “You have to let that light a fire under you and let that push you a little bit. But you’ve got to move on as fast as you can.”
Parke admitted that containing his emotions is not something he’s particularly good at and that players are always “jawing” at each other when the Union and D.C. United clash.
But because of the rivalry aspect of the game, the Union (9-7-7) know D.C. United (3-15-4) will present a tough challenge, even if they are in last place in the Eastern Conference. Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal win over Chicago – a team the Union just lost to – is another reminder of that.
“We have enough familiarity with each other to know it’s going to be a battle,” Hackworth said. “This rivalry is real. Players take it very seriously and it gets emotional at times.
“This is a game we clearly need to win and D.C. has nothing to lose coming here. There are a lot of scary factors.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.