May 4, 2014
By Charles Cuttone
Time for a change at Union?
When John Hackworth took over as Philadelphia Union Team Manager a little less than two years ago, he took over a struggling team that had made the playoffs the year before, been remade over the offseason and was stuck in the bottom half of the MLS East with a 2-7-2 record.
Now the Philadelphia Union finds itself with a team remade during the offseason and is stuck in the bottom half of the MLS East with a record of 1-4-5. The big difference? Hackworth’s team didn’t make the playoffs last season, and ten games into this year, they surely don’t look like a playoff team, despite expensive offseason acquisitions and a constantly fluid lineup.
Nowak was shown the exit because of “philosophical differences.” “It doesn’t have anything to do with the won-loss record," said team CEO Nick Sakiewicz at the time.
Sakiewicz also said that the team the year before had backed into the playoffs under Nowak. Perhaps a true assertion, but for a young, second-year team, not an entirely bad thing. Better to be there than not, no matter how you got there.
Last season, however, the Union backed themselves out of the playoffs, the second time under Hackworth they didn’t make the postseason.
The team got off to a good start, on the strength of goal scoring by Jack McInerney and playmaking by Sebastien Le Toux, but McInerney went into a deep freeze after being selected to the U.S. National Team for the Gold Cup, and never regained his form. He was traded last month to Montreal for Andrew Wenger.
The Union were inconsistent all season, had plenty of chances to gain ground in the MLS East, but right through to the final weekend failed to rise to the occasion.
The answer was an offseason spending spree that saw the team bring in Maurice Edu, Victor Nogueira and Cristian Maidana, acquisitions costing the Union $1.17 million dollars. The team also traded up to get the first round draft pick, selecting goalkeeper Andre Blake, who thus far has been relegated to the Union bench as the backup under Zac MacMath, who has developed into a good professional keeper.
Saturday night the Union lost 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders, their eighth straight game without a win and third loss in four games. The team’s only win this year came in the second game of the season, 1-0 over New England. They’ve had chances since then, only to fail to put them away, giving up late goals in draws against Montreal, Chicago, Salt Lake and a loss to New York. The team hasn’t scored in its last three games (the goal against Seattle was an own goal) and despite the consistent “happy talk” from Hackworth about the team creating chances and playing well, soccer is a bottom line business and this team’s bottom line is not a good one.
Is it time for a change? Maybe. If the team doesn’t right itself before the World Cup break next month, definitely.