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Wagner is back; Burke status still up in the air

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Philadelphia Union head coach talked to media Monday ahead of the first home game at Subaru Park since last October

MLS: Portland Timbers at Philadelphia Union Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Kai Wagner is fully healthy and expected to return to the starting lineup for the Philadelphia Union in what will be their first game at Subaru Park in Chester in more than 300 days.

“He’s fully healthy so you can kind of guess what the next step in that process is; he’s ready to go,” head coach Jim Curtin told reporters on Monday.

Curtin was less definitive and not very optimistic about the status of Cory Burke, who still has not been able to return to the country since his loan ended in Austria last month. Burke has been unable to return to the U.S. since his P-1 visa was revoked last May.

“I wish I had something positive but it’s been a frustrating situation for everyone on all sides,” Curtin said. “You can’t get clear answers. Every time you think something’s moving in the right direction things go dark. It’s been really frustrating. I feel for Cory the most. He has a child here that he hasn’t seen in gosh almost going on probably close to a year, which is is awful.”

With Burke unavailable and a packed schedule ahead, Curtin doesn’t have a lot of options for squad rotation on the front line. He did say that Andrew Wooten is pushing for more minutes, but Michee Ngalina didn’t travel to New England and Curtin said he’s “behind” the other attacking options. Jack de Vries hasn’t played since he made a six-minute cameo for his MLS debut in the first group game of the MLS is Back Tournament.

Curtin did say Monday that squad rotation will be necessary for both the Union and for the Red Bulls, who come to town for the first MLS game since they lost to the Union in the playoffs last fall.

Might Olivier Mbaizo, who saw his first minutes in New England since last May see a spot start for Ray Gaddis? Or Warren Creavalle give a veteran presence in the midfield in place of Jose Martinez?

The most likely rotation would be Jakob Glesnes in for Jack Elliott, but Elliott and Mark McKenzie just had arguably their best game together in the scoreless draw in New England.

“Jack’s playing at a high level, Mark’s playing at his highest level ever and Jakob Glesnes is also a guy that needs to get minutes as well because he’s that good,” Curtin said. “Look, with the position we can fortunately afford some rotation with the busy schedule that we have been playing every three days now.”

The atmosphere tomorrow night will be markedly different than the last time the Union took the field in Chester, but Curtin said just being back on the field training on Monday was a good feeling.

“To actually have a training session on the field for the first time in almost close to a calendar year, I’ve missed it,” he said. “You miss the energy that’s in the building.”