Union revel in chance to host exciting Galaxy


Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Posted: 5:05 p.m.

By Ryan Bright
CSNPhilly.com Contributor

CHESTER, Pa. -- Maybe its their high-profile roster or the quality of play. Either way, when the L.A. Galaxy come to PPL Park on Wednesday night to challenge the Union, the atmosphere will be nothing short of electric.

When you talk about the Galaxy, being one of the marquee teams in the league and the star-studded roster they have, it adds a lot to it, said assistant coach John Hackworth, who is taking over for head coach Peter Nowak for Wednesdays contest. A night game at PPL Park always seems to bring a lot of excitement. The fans come with a little more energy, its cooler so players can run a lot harder. We expect it to be fantastic.

The Union played host to the Galaxy once in their inaugural season, which was a highly anticipated Wednesday evening game that resulted in a 1-0 Union loss, decided by a David Beckham corner kick that was finished by Edson Buddle. The two squads met again on April 2 at the Home Depot Center and it had a deja vu feel to it -- another 1-0 Galaxy victory, thanks to a free kick by Beckham to Leonardo.

However, this time around, the Galaxy, standing atop the Western Conference standings with a record of 4-2-4, will be without Beckham, who did not make the trip to Philadelphia. The Galaxy denied that the cause was related to the minor car accident that he was involved in on May 7 in Los Angeles.

We dont approach that were going to beat David Beckham, we approach it that were going to beat the L.A. Galaxy, said Hackworth. For us, you have times when your opponent has an injury or different line up, so it doesnt change anything for us. We will look at things but we know we have to play one of the best teams in the league tomorrow night.

Although the Galaxy are without one of their better set-up guys, they are still a high-powered team that loves to create offense through set pieces and strong attackers like Landon Donovan, Juninho and Juan Pablo Angel. This creates a problem for the Union, who have given up all three goals against this season from set plays.

They still have guys who can swing balls in and we have to still be aware, said defender Sheanon Williams. Weve only given up goals on set pieces and its something we need to be better at.

While the Galaxy are coming off an entertaining draw with the New York Red Bulls, the Union -- who are third in the Eastern Conference at 4-2-1 -- are fresh off a 1-0 road loss at the hands of the Portland Timbers. It was yet another game in which the Union offense failed to get moving. The sputtering attack has only scored five goals in seven games and, while defense has been of primary concern this season, the Union, especially striker Carlos Ruiz, are trying to figure it out.

Thats my department, said Ruiz, who, aside from taking the lack of offense personally, also noted hes tired of being asked about it. Thats Danny Mwangas department and Sebastien Le Toux.

Despite the revenge scenario, confident defense and a missing Beckham, the Unions greatest weapon on Wednesday might be home-field advantage. The Union are 3-0-1 at PPL Park and embrace any opportunity to perform in front of their crowd.

Were playing at home and to us, that means a lot, said Hackworth, who has command over a healthy lineup, outside of midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi. We feel that when we play at home, in this stadium, with the fans behind us, were an even better team. Our players feed off the crowd and we also take a tremendous amount of pride of how we play at home. This is our house and we dont want anybody to come in here and get a result. The team is ready, were excited.
Playing without coach
On Monday, it was announced by the Union that coach Peter Nowak would be absent from Wednesdays contest against the L.A. Galaxy to attend a charity event on the same day in his native country of Poland. The prestigious gathering, called Match of the Stars, faces off Stars of Europe, Nowaks team, against retired Polish internationals.

While leaving a team in the middle of the regular season may seem odd to many, for the Union, who will get Nowak back before Saturdays game in Dallas, it was more of a business decision than anything else.

For Peter, personally, and for the Philadelphia Union, its a great opportunity, said Hackworth. Its a very prestigious game and group of players that are being brought together. So for him to do that is great and an opportunity for us to spread the Philadelphia Union brand in Europe. Its really important.

The Union should be in good hands with Hackworth, who filled in for Nowak in April of 2010, after the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 96 others died in a tragic plane crash.

For me personally, Peter and I have worked together for four years, side by side, said Hackworth. For either one of us, its really not different. Its a big game but every game in this league is a big game. From our standpoint, nothing changes really."

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com

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