When John Hackworth was hired to take over as head coach of Louisville City in August, there was always the chance that Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke would have a chance to face his former colleague and boss for the first time in the postseason.
To make that happen, the Steel needed to stage a late comeback and advance out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in club history on penalties. Now, Burke is back in Louisville hoping to avenge a lopsided loss there in the team’s first ever playoff game last fall.
“I texted with him a little bit (on Monday) and we said that neither one of us are looking forward to the coaching against one another part but looking forward to sitting down and saying hello when we get down there,” Burke said earlier this week. “I learned so much from and have a great respect for what he’s doing there already at Louisville.”
Burke initially was a fellow assistant to Hackworth on the Philadelphia Union technical staff in 2011 under Peter Nowak, but Hackworth became his boss when he took over first as the interim head coach in June 2012. Burke, who had also served as the Reading United head coach, had moved on to take an associate coaching job in the college ranks with Northeastern when Hackworth was fired in 2014.
“I know coach [Brendan] Burke very well, I think he’s one of the best young coaches for sure in this league and so I’m trying to make sure our team is prepared to the best of our ability,” Hackworth said.
Hackworth, who had served as the United States U17 head coach since 2015, was named the Louisville City head coach after James O’Connor was hired to helm Orlando City SC.
He’s done well since taking over, especially of late with City on a seven-game winning streak after beating Indy Eleven in the first round of the playoffs. Louisville has lost only twice since Hackworth’s arrival.
“He has them on a hot streak, as hot as they’ve been so looking forward to seeing them and hopefully they don’t pick us apart,” Burke said.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Louisville Slugger Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN+. The winner will go to the Eastern Conference semifinal.