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Cory Burke to start in Wednesday’s playoff game

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Head coach Jim Curtin sticking with striker after subbing him out at halftime on Sunday

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New York City FC Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

If there was any question whether striker Cory Burke would be starting against New York City FC in Wednesday night’s playoff game, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin ended that during his media scrum on Tuesday.

“Cory is going to be starting, I don’t really care about giving New York City a head start on that one,” Curtin said. “He’s going to really empty his tank and our guys right now aren’t happy with the performance we put in and Cory would fall into that category.”

Curtin took Burke out before the start of the second half in Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Yankee Stadium n the regular season finale. The Jamaica international was on a yellow card and had the Union’s only goal, but also got into a verbal disagreement with midfielder Borek Dockal. He was seen visibly in tears after Curtin replaced him with veteran midfielder Ilsinho, moving C.J. Sapong up top.

“Everything is in the past and I’m focusing on the game tomorrow,” Burke told reporters on Tuesday.

Burke’s final start of the regular season was somewhat of a book-end to his first start in Montreal, when he scored his first MLS goal but was sent off for a booking in the second half in what ended up being the team’s first road win in nearly a full calendar year. The former Bethlehem Steel striker finished the season tied for the team lead with 10 goals. Picault had a chance to score his 11th goal in the second half, but his penalty kick was saved by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

By playing all 45 minutes in place of Burke on Sunday, Ilsinho put in his longest shift since July 7th when he started and played 83 minutes. The 33-year-old Brazilian has missed nearly three months of the season with three separate injuries — a muscle injury in March, a hamstring injury in July/August and an abductor muscle tear in September/October. He finished the season with six goals and two assists in 23 appearances, nine of those starts.

“Ilsinho was really good when he came on, a little bit of that is New York is protecting a lead and we’re able to throw numbers forward and go at them, we took a lot of high risk late in the game,” Curtin said. “You do have to balance that, you have to balance where his fitness is at, how quick he can recover from the 45 minutes at a high intensity where he was on the ball a lot. We have a plan in place, how we’re going to approach the game but Ilsinho will certainly a major role.”

Wednesday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. If the Union advance, they’ll play the New York Red Bulls in a home and away series. The Red Bulls beat the Union 1-0 at Talen Energy Stadium on October 21, the first of a two-game losing streak to end the year that saw the Union fall to sixth place.