Marc Narducci: Gargan returns with Chicago in key game for Union

Defender Dan Gargan and the Fire take on the Union in a key game on Sunday.
Defender Dan Gargan and the Fire take on the Union in a key game on Sunday.
Posted: August 10, 2012

When defender Dan Gargan first played as an opponent of the Union at PPL Park in 2010, he was told several unflattering things by fans, many of whom had colorful ways of telling him he wasn't a very good soccer player.

He loved every minute of it.

Maybe it's because Gargan did the very same thing when he was growing up in Philadelphia and attending sporting events at Veterans Stadium while also starring at Chestnut Hill Academy.

Gargan's first time as a Major League Soccer visitor came July 17, 2010, as a member of Toronto. He returns on Sunday as the Chicago Fire visit PPL Park in what has to be looked at as a must-win for the Union and an awfully critical game for the visitors.

The 29-year-old Gargan hopes the experience matches the first time he visited PPL Park, with one exception - the final score. The Union beat Toronto that day, 2-1, as Sebastian Le Toux scored a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Other than that, Gargan, who was credited with an assist in the game, had a blast.

"It was awesome and everything I expected it to be," Gargan said in a phone interview. "I got cursed up and down."

He clearly felt that turnabout was fair play.

"I have been on the other side at the Vet, cheering for the Phillies and Eagles, and told every player on the opposition they were the worst player," he said.

No doubt he might have told them in a more creative way, but the fact is, Gargan still loves Philadelphia and can't wait to return. Whether he plays will be a different story.

Gargan has been a key part of a Fire team that entered the weekend holding the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Union trail the Fire by 12 points, but they do have two games in hand. (Teams earn three points for a win and one for a draw.)

Gargan has played in 19 games for the 10-7-5 Fire, but didn't appear in Chicago's most recent contest, a 2-1 win on Saturday over Toronto.

For most of the season, Gargan has been playing with a fracture in his left foot. To show his toughness, the type that Philadelphia fans both demand and applaud, he has not taken extended time off.

There is more pain for Gargan being on the sidelines than in playing through his injury, and his coach knows it.

"He's a Philly guy, and Philly guys are tough as nails," Fire coach Frank Klopas said in a phone interview.

Klopas wouldn't say whether Gargan will play, but one gets the impression that it will be difficult to keep him off the field.

Gargan said he was feeling much better, but the pain likely won't totally subside until he can rest after the season.

"Early on, it was painful and probably the toughest injury I had to play with," Gargan said.

One gets the impression that he may plead his case to his coach to play. In the meantime, Gargan does admit pleading for something else - tickets.

He's asking teammates for extras because a large group of family and friends are expected, well more than 100. This is a game that he had circled on his calendar as soon as the schedule arrived.

"I think Philadelphia fans are some of the best fans in the world," he said. "I love the fact that they are brutally honest."

So Gargan understands he won't receive a hero's welcome from most of the fans, and that's fine with him.

After all, what are a few boos to somebody who has played with an injury that usually only hurts when he has to walk, run, or do anything in between.


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

 

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