View Count: 168 |  Publish Date: April 04, 2014
Union's Berry getting a homecoming in Chicago
JAKE KAPLAN, Daily News Staff Writer Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014, 3:01 AM
LESS THAN 6 WEEKS ago, on a preseason morning in Arizona, Austin Berry was joking around with teammate Jeff Larentowicz on the way to that days training session. Berry was readying for his third season as a starting defender for the Chicago Fire.
And then he wasnt.
Initially, it was a pretty big shock, he said this week of the Feb. 24 trade to Philadelphia.
That shock has worn off, but this weekend surely will bring back some memories for Berry. The Union (1-1-2) heads to the Windy City to play the winless Chicago Fire (0-1-3) tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Toyota Park, a bit of a reunion for Phillys 25-year-old defender. More coverage2014 Philadelphia Union schedule 2014 Union season statistics Major League Soccer national television schedule Fox Sports UEFA and CONCACAF Champions League TV schedule More soccer coverage from The Goalkeeper Buy Philadelphia Union gear Buy Philadelphia Union tickets
Berry acknowledged that tomorrow might feel strange at first - Its definitely going to be weird walking into the stadium in a different jersey, he said - but added that hes settled in with his new club.
It will be a little bit weird at the beginning, just seeing a bunch of familiar faces Ive seen the last couple years, being in that stadium and in front of the fans, said Berry, who started 62 games in two seasons with Chicago and earned MLS Rookie of the Year honors in 2012. But Im sure Ill settle down quickly and Ill get into the game.
The catch is that Berry, a center back, is only questionable to play against his former team. Although he performed well in the seasons first two games, a hamstring injury sidelined him the last two matches. It also gave converted forward Aaron Wheeler a chance to prove his worth, which he did in starts against Columbus and Montreal. Wheeler was named Monday to the MLS Team of the Week.
As of Wednesday, Berry said he had felt 100 percent healthy this week in training. And Union manager John Hackworth made it clear that if Berry doesnt play tomorrow, its not because of a faulty hamstring. Its because of Wheeler.
As the manager noted, its a good problem to have.
Right now, were deep there, said Hackworth, who mentioned that center back Ethan White has also performed well in training. Coming back off an injury, [Berry] has to make sure and prove through training that hes the best selection. That competition is good . . .
Austins got qualities, and we recognized those before we made a move to trade for him. Its just that we are pretty fortunate right now that we do have a lot of depth in that position, and Aaron Wheeler has been a bit of a revelation in that regard.
Substitute to starter and back to substitute would be a development disappointing to Wheeler.
But at the same time, Hackworth said, Austins a very decorated defender.
Its not like hes just somebody who came in off the street. Hes played [64] games as a starter in this league. It would be difficult, but, at the same time, I welcome the challenge. If it happens, Ill fight to get back the position, if at all possible.
Center back is not the only defensive position in which the Union believes it has depth. Right back Sheanon Williams has returned to training after his preseason quad strain, but now has to beat out Ray Gaddis or Fabinho to regain his starting spot.
Sheanon is somebody that we think we need to go forward, Hackworth said, but, obviously, its really nice to have the depth that were having and having guys play well.
Union history for Mo
Midfielder Maurice Edu became the first Union player capped by the U.S. mens national team late Wednesday, entering in the 72nd minute of the friendly against Mexico.
Edu substituted for Kyle Beckerman in the 2-2 draw, played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Edu is in the mix to earn a spot on his second World Cup team; he played on the 2010 squad that competed in South Africa.
A starter who has played every minute of every game thus far, Edu is set to rejoin the Union for tomorrows match.
Maidana questionable
Starting midfielder Cristian Maidana is questionable for tomorrows game because of a bruised right calf suffered in the first half of Saturdays 1-1 draw with Montreal.
Maidana, acquired in January, has one assist and four shots on goal through four games. The Argentine played great in the teams first two games, but has struggled to emulate those performances the last two matches.
I think hes trying to pull off plays in moments where its just not smart for him, Hackworth said. He needs to make better decisions. Hes a technical enough player to execute if the ideas are right. Were just trying to keep him very positive so that we hope he can get back to the level that we saw before we brought him here and clearly we saw in the first two games of the year.
Midfielder/forward Danny Cruz, and midfielders Fred and Zach Pfeffer are also battling through injuries. Cruz has had a bruised heel while Fred and Pfeffer suffered unspecified knocks in the clubs reserve game on Sunday, according to Hackworth.
Union assistant and former Villanova standout Jim Curtin, who played for the Fire from 2001-08, will sign a 1-day contract and retire as a member of the club, which will honor him during tomorrows game.
On Twitter: @jakemkaplan
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