Union hungry to equal road success at home starting this Saturday

Union poised to return PPL Park into a fortress against Chicago

PPL Park celebration

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

The 2011 Philadelphia Union went to the playoffs because it was able to turn PPL Park into a "fortress".

That squad went 7-1-9 at home, losing just once in 17 regular season games. Opposing teams didn't leave Chester with three points.

Fast forward two years.

The 2013 version of the Philadelphia Union is playing very well on the road, but has not replicated the results at home.

Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Los Angeles dropped the team to a 1-2-2 record at PPL Park. However it's a mark the club is ready to improve and will get an immediate chance to this weekend in a rubber match against Eastern Conference foe, Chicago (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).

"I think our mentality might be a little tougher on the road, and we're trying to push things at home, manager John Hackworth said. "That game [against the Galaxy] opened up a lot, which hasn't been something we've been good at. We keep it a little tighter on the road."

With a 3-2-1 road record, the club has earned 10 out of 18 possible points outside of PPL Park.

At home, the Union has earned just five of 15 points.

"I wish we could [explain it], said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. "It's obviously something we've got to look at and try to figure out. There's no explanation right now."

"I don't know if it's a lack of focus or maybe expecting the away team just to sit in and not play to the best of their abilities," added Amobi Okugo. "I don't know."

The schedule has arguably been harder at home, with visits from playoff teams Seattle, Los Angeles, and Kansas City. Road opponents D.C. and Chicago have struggled in 2013.

"I think we've just had some tough games so far," right back Sheanon Williams explained. "I feel like our losses here, we lost to Kansas City and LA, and (drew with Seattle and Toronto). I think we've just had some tough games here. We want to be a little bit better at home. We keep getting behind at home where we have to fight back and we want to be on the front foot and maybe get that first goal and maybe push from there instead of having to climb out of a 1-0 hole. Then we have to exert all of that energy to get the (equalizer) and try to get a second one. I think we're better suited to getting that first goal and then playing the ball around and looking for the second one."

Defender Bakary Soumare drew similarities between the 2013 Union and his 2008 Chicago team. That Fire squad went 6-5-4 on the road but also lost five times at home. The club ended up in the playoffs.

"It's a good question," Soumare said. "This is the second team I've been on (that has played better on the road). My Chicago team in 2008 was the same way, and there's no explanation for that. Maybe when you get on the road the expectations are a little less. You go out there and you're trying to just come home with a point, you know? One of the goals before the season started was to make this place a fortress, not concede goals, but we've conceded a lot of goals here, and haven't gotten a lot of points. It's been weird. A team that wants to win, it starts by winning at home, every time. I don't have an explanation why. Maybe we're putting too much pressure on ourselves when we play at home. I don't have a real answer for that. It sucks, but you've got to move on. We have another home game (Saturday) and we're going to try to do better."

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com