Friday, November 27, 2015

A day of responsibility for the Union

With just one word at the start of his postgame press conference, Union manager John Hackworth spoke volumes about the emotions of his team after Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Montréal Impact at PPL Park.

A day of responsibility for the Union


Reporter: John, how frustrating was it to drop a couple of points again, especially at home?

John Hackworth: Extremely.

[Long pause]

With just one word at the start of his postgame press conference, Union manager John Hackworth spoke volumes about the emotions of his team after Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Montréal Impact at PPL Park.

Hackworth is not one to raise his voice in public. If he gets angry, he doesn't show it to the media or Union fans.

Without doubt, though, Hackworth was seething inside as he sat at the podium. Not only because of Marco Di Vaio's beautiful 80th-minute, equalizer, and what Hackworth called "a lot going on in that play that we could’ve done to prevent to never get put in that situation."

The true root of Hackworth's anger was the fact that the Union should have put the game away well before Di Vaio scored, and everyone knew it.

It says something about how much the Union improved in the offseason that their biggest mistake on the day was a side effect of just how well they played. Vincent Nogueira and the rest of the Union's midfield had a clear majority of the possession in the game (57.9 percent, to be precise), and completed 423 passes to the Impact's 310 over 90 minutes. Those numbers are even more impressive in the context of the torrential rain and winds that pestered PPL Park all afternoon.

That mistake, as Hackworth admitted, was that his team wasn't selfish enough.

“I thought we could've been more selfish," he said. "We could’ve taken on guys  1 v. 1 in many chances today... We passed the ball an awful lot, but we passed it when we should’ve taken a guy on the dribble and getting a cross off. We have to have more variety in our attack.”

A few moments later, Hackworth returned to the theme.

“I think the players need to take responsibility for when they have it [the ball]," he said. "When they have it, they have to go for it. There were clearly a lot of situations when guys could’ve taken shots or gone 1 v. 1."

When Hackworth was done, the scene shifted to the locker room. It was as somber as you'd expect.

One player who did take responsibility, and impressively so, was the Union's goalscorer on the afternoon: Vincent Nogueira. He knew that his 35th-minute goal was crucial, but also that he shot narrowly wide of the far post from a one-on-one breakaway a few moments earlier.

"I know it was a missed opportunity," he said. "It would have made a huge difference if I had been able to score both, because I think we would have been able to hold the result if we had gotten the second one."

Nogueira also owned up to turning the ball over on the sequence that led to Di Vaio's goal.

"When the started the counter-attack, it wasn't complicated: I gave up the ball," he said. "We had the ball, and I lost it, and after that things went pretty fast."

Another player worth highlighting from Saturday is Aaron Wheeler. If you hadn't known before Saturday that he converted from forward to central defender, you might well never have.

It is a reflection not only of how well Wheeler has made the change, but of the high standard to which he holds himself.

“I don’t want people to look at me as a converted forward, I want people to judge how they judge the other center backs in the league," he said. "I want you to be judged as a center back and that is the position that I am playing. I don’t need any soft critics - I am just going out there and trying to do things to the best of my ability."

After the interviews were done, the Inquirer's Matt Breen and I got together to share some thoughts on what we saw. The video is above.

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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, the National Women's Soccer League, the U.S. men's and women's national teams, and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Jonathan Tannenwald
Lauren Green Inquirer Staff Writer
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