Cory Burke, Philadelphia Union aim to put Sunday halftime spat in the past

CHESTER, Pa. — At the end of Tuesday’s practice, Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner wrapped an arm around Cory Burke and huddled with the Jamaican striker near a team bench. 

A few moments later, head coach Jim Curtin reaffirmed his belief in Burke, who scored his 10th goal Sunday but was yanked from Philly’s 3-1 loss to New York City FC Sunday at halftime following a verbal confrontation with midfielder Borek Dockal in the first half.

“Cory’s going to be starting,” Curtin told reporters before the team departed to New York again to take on NYCFC in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs on Wednesday (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, TSN, TVAS). “I don’t really care about giving New York City a head start on that one. And he’s going to really empty his tank.”

After beginning the first MLS season on the bench, Burke has started 15 games, with the Union going 10-3-2 in those contests. Philly are also 7-1-1 in games in which Burke has scored, with the only loss coming in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

The result dropped the Union to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, setting up another tough road game at Yankee Stadium, this time in a loser-goes-home scenario. Just as troubling was Burke's spat with Dockal, two players who have enjoyed standout debut seasons to help push the Union to the franchise’s best regular season ever.

“Everything is in the past,” said Burke, who didn’t speak to the media after Sunday’s loss. “I’m focusing on the game tomorrow.”

What was said between him and Dockal?

“Just the heat of the game,” Burke said. “Just a misunderstanding at one point. But we talked things over and everything is right and we’re ready to go for tomorrow’s game.”

It was Dockal that set up Burke’s goal Sunday, which made Dockal the 2018 MLS assist king. He recorded one of his league-leading 18 assists on a goal Burke scored in a 2-0 home win over NYCFC in August.

And now they're both set to make their MLS Cup Playoffs debut after what Curtin called some good talks with Burke and the rest of the team.

“Cory always has a smile on his face,” Curtin said. “I love his reaction to things. Listen, the intensity of the moment is part of pro sports. There’s disagreements. That’s in the past. It’s over. It’s part of the 34 games. Now it’s a new season.

“Our guys right now aren’t happy with the performance we put in and Cory would fall into that category. I think you’ll see a good response from the group.”

Watch: Can Philly flip the script on NYC in Wednesday's rematch?