The Philadelphia Union has provided one of the versatile attacks in MLS this season, seeing many players chip in goals so far. Jim Curtin’s attacking corps could also receive another major boost with a familiar face set to return to Philadelphia.
Jamaican international Cory Burke is in transit back to the Union, Curtin stated in a conference call on Tuesday. Burke has not played for the Union since April 2019 due to Visa issues, but could play a major role in the club’s attack during the final stretch of the regular season.
“I’ll just say and dare I say the words in transit, he is about to be in Philadelphia which is the most positive news that I can give in quite some time,” Curtin said. “Tonight hopefully, but until I see his face I cannot confirm or deny that he is in Philadelphia.”
Burke spent 2019 on loan in his native Jamaica with Portmore United before heading to Austria’s SKN St. Poelten in 2020. The 28-year-old scored four goals in the Bundesliga including a hat trick against WSG Swarovski Tirol on June 2nd.
He helped Poelten remain in the top flight for another season, but most importantly earned consistent minutes abroad to stay fit for his return to MLS. Burke has scored 12 MLS goals in 36 league appearances, with 10 of those coming in the 2018 season.
There is no timetable when Burke would be allowed to feature for the club, but his return would give the Union another option alongside Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, and Andrew Wooten in attack.
Wagner, Creavalle back available, Gaddis remains out
Injuries have played a part in the Union’s season to date with some players rotating between the field and the sidelines.
Kai Wagner missed out on Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Toronto FC as a precaution, but will be available for Wednesday’s home date with FC Cincinnati. Wagner suffered a leg injury in a 4-1 win over D.C. United back on Aug. 29th and returned in a shutout victory over Inter Miami at the end of September.
The 23-year-old has been a key piece of the Union’s backline since moving from Germany ahead of the 2019 season.
“With Kai maybe it’s an instance where we against Miami he felt good at halftime and he had a protocol in place where we’d check in at halftime and see if he could make the turn and play the second half having missed some time and the dialogue between me and him was that his body felt good,” Curtin said.
“In the 60th minute we got the thumbs up and that he felt strong. He wanted to gut it out and play the full 90 but he started to have some tightness so we took him out. The recovery the next two days was fine and then he just had a sort of a tightness when we started back up training that didn’t feel right so we didn’t want to force it with Toronto. He got some treatment and will be fully available for tomorrow evening’s game which is a real positive.”
One veteran is also available with Warren Creavalle set to be on the bench on Wednesday night. Creavalle last appeared in a 4-1 road win over the Montreal Impact on Sept. 20th, but since has dealt with illness forcing him to miss matches against Inter Miami and TFC.
Defender Ray Gaddis, who suffered a leg injury in a scoreless draw at Cincinnati in September, will miss Wednesday’s match. Gaddis, 30, has appeared in 14 games for the Union this season, but remains on the sidelines recovering for a return this Fall.
“Ray won’t make tomorrow, he’s coming along strong and I had a good talk with him yesterday,” Curtin said. “I can’t stress how important he is to our team and again I think the good performance against Toronto was done without our two starting outside backs. He’s doing everything to get back as quickly as possible and doing all the little things that a good leader does to help in the locker room.”
Union eager to stay in race for No. 1 seed
The Union let themselves down against TFC on Saturday, coughing up an early lead in an eventual 2-1 loss. The positive news though is they remain in touching distance of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia hosts 12th place Cincinnati at Subaru Park in a match which could see them finish Wednesday tied or even in hold of first place. The Union are currently on 28 points with Columbus and Toronto tied on 31.
Whats even better is the Union have won two of its all-time meetings with Cincinnati, outscoring them 4-0 over that span. Wednesday’s showdown could feel like a must-win, especially after disappointing in the final stages against TFC.
“Good news is we are three points from the top spot in the league and five of our final eight games are at home,” Curtin said. “Now it’s up to us to put in a better performance after the Toronto loss and I am fully confident that the players will have a response like they always do. We haven’t had many disappointing results this season, but when we did we always bounced back.”
“Cincinnati is a team we played recently, very organized and they defend the box with a lot of numbers,” Curtin said. “We’ll have to find that balance of hitting them on the counter and also controlling the ball and making them work for it. We’re going to have to focus on taking Haris [Medunjanin] out of the equation because he is great on the ball and setting things up for them.”
After going up against Alejandro Pozuelo, Ayo Akinola, and Jozy Altidore on Saturday, the Union will look to limit the offensive ability of Jurgen Locadia. Locadia, 26, is on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion, but has yet to live up to his potential in MLS just yet.
The Dutch forward has only one goal in 12 appearances for FC Cincy, despite having plenty of chances this season. He had three offensive chances against the Union in a scoreless draw at Nippert Stadium in September and will be the key forward for Curtin’s backline to keep an eye on.
“They have a player in Locadia who has gotten a lot of looks,” Curtin said. “His movement is very good and he is a top striker. He is a guy that we will have to be wary of and try to limit in the box. Cincinnati is a good team overall and it will be a new test on Wednesday.”