Monday, October 20, 2014
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A few pennies' worth of new Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth's thoughts

Recapping John Hackworth's first press conference as manager of the Philadelphia Union.

A few pennies' worth of new Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth's thoughts

You may think there was some great tactical revolution within the Union Saturday night (though I don't).

You may think the dismissal of Peter Nowak led to Union players being more "free" and expressive as individuals (though there was a mix of views in the locker room after the game as to whether the atmosphere off the field changed much over the course of the week).

You may think that the soccer was generally better against D.C. United than it had been in a while (which it was, though the end result was still a loss).

Or you may have stopped caring about the Union altogether a few weeks ago, as a number of commenters here seem to have (though the crowd at PPL Park was astonishingly large and loud given how poorly the Union have played this season).

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There are a lot of things still to be determined about just what effect John Hackworth will have on the Union in his time in charge, be it just for the rest of this season or longer. But I am certain of one thing thus far.

Hackworth's first postgame press conference as the team's full-time manager that was more direct and thorough than a considerable majority of the public remarks ever made by Peter Nowak since the day he was unveiled as the Union's first ever manager two and a half years ago.

And it didn't even last 10 minutes.

Now that might just be something that only interests the media. But if the tone in which Hackworth spoke in the press room was an indication of the tone he'll use with his players, there may yet be some progress this year.

So to borrow the old Bill Nye adage, please consider the following. 

Opening remarks:

Not the way I wanted to walk into this room. I thought the guys played fantastic. We play that way every week, we're going to win a lot of games. So it's awful disappointing, but we can take a lot of positives out of this game.

On the foul that led to the free kick that led to D.C. United's goal:

I thought it was a great tackle. I thought that, if anything, there was simulation on the play. At some point, those situations are going to change. We can't control it, we can't do anything about it. We've got to defend the restart after the fact.

We've got to put a couple of chances in the back of the net, and that's our fault.

[Note that last clause in particular.]

Too many really good looks, especially when Antoine came into the game. If one of those goes in, it changes the game for us.

On whether he thinks he'll stick with Saturday's starting lineup going forward:

I would. Look, I need time to think about it. I'm very emotionally charged right now, as you can imagine. But I'm going to look at the tape tomorrow.

My initial thoughts are that the group of players on the field played the way that the Union want to play. Not the way John Hackworth wants to play; the way the Union want to play every single game.

[A question for another day, since there are only so many each reporter can ask per press conference: Is there a difference? I would think not, but I found that contrast interesting.]

The fans, I think they want that. The fans, our ownership, they want that kind of energy. And it was fantastic.

So we'll evaluate it, see how our guys are feeling, and then come back against another group that's very good going forward Saturday night here. I expect you'll see a lot of the same.

On playing Amobi Okugo as a central defender:

We're trying to play out of the back. Amobi's a midfielder. He's very composed on the ball, he's got great feet, and he's hard as nails too. He has given us a lot. We need to control tempo instead of just getting rid of [the ball] and fighting for the next one.

Especially early in the game, I believe we did a great job of playing out of the back. Even under some pretty good pressure by D.C., we were able to do that, and Amobi was a big part of that.

On whether, given his earlier remark that the lack of finishing was "our fault," the team's current group of forwards has the kind of predatory instincts that he is looking for:

Yes, absolutely. It's just a matter of execution now. You don't create that many chances against that quality of a team. This is a cruel game, and it's feeling be very cruel right now, because I don't think we deserved to lose this game.

But absolutely. Those guys are very good. And they're all young. We've got some young players out there who need more chances. They need to be in that environment more, and in those kind of games.

On how the lack of finishing relates to the service the forwards are getting, and specifically the position which he thinks best suits Freddy Adu:

I think Freddy has done a good job. When we play him on that right side, he tucks underneath. He's very creative. It's been good for us. We do have to - that final ball was missing tonight. We talked about it at halftime. 

It definitely missed us in the second half, because on the one where Antoine hit the post, he's got Jack McInerney sitting wide open by himself on the six [yard line], and if he rolls that back, it's a tap-in. Some of those are decisions and some of those are execution, but they're going to come.

On whether, since Carlos Valdés is the only true central defender on the roster right now, the team will pursue signing an international center back when the next transfer window opens:

Sure. Absolutely. That's a need for us. But if Amobi Okugo can play the way he did for us tonight, I don't think there will be much need for us to bring somebody in.

Amobi is a 20-year-old guy who's been with us for three years. We have the youngest roster in the league, and there's a reason for that.

[Although there wasn't time to ask Saturday night, Hackworth ought to be pushed to expand on what that "reason" is at his Wednesday press conference.]

We have them; we should play them. If they play like that, they deserve to play, I think.

On the lift Antoine Hoppenot has given the team in recent weeks:

He's a little dynamo, isn't he? He's a sparkplug. He's dangerous. He stretches people, and he's deceptively tougher than people think, too. Now if we could provide that last ball a little better, he could finish. I think that's going to come.

On whether we'll see Sheanon Williams at right back from here on out:

Yeah. He's one of the best right backs in the league, and he's a 21-year old kid who can get better and better. I hope he does.


In addition to Hackworth, here are a few interesting quotes from Freddy Adu.

On the team playing the ball more through midfield instead of hitting it long to a target forward:

We have the players to play like that. Why we never played like that, I don't know, but I thought today, we came out and everybody felt free. Guys felt like they wanted to play. And we were playing some pretty decent soccer.

When you're out there playing like that, it's fun.

On whether it is a coincidence that players "felt free" in the first game after Peter Nowak's dismissal:

I think it just sort of happened that way. We all love Peter. We do. These kinds of things happen, but when they happen, you have to come out and respond to them. And we're professionals. So when you come out here today, a lot of people were trying to make an impression on [John] Hackworth.

It's like a new life for a lot of people that never got in the roster and never got to play before. Everyone was excited. Jack McInerney came in and was very lively. He gave us something. We knew that when we got the ball, he was going to be making runs.

On playing on the right side of a three-forward line compared to the other positions at which he has played in his career:

That's something that I knew was going to happen. With the Olympic team, I was given a lot of freedom to not just play on the right side, but move inside and be a second playmaker. I actually even moved to the other side once. That's the freedom I've been given.

A couple of weeks back against New York I was given that freedom and it worked out great. Now the coaching staff has given me that freedom all the time now, which is great. I'm able to create a lot more chances for the team, whether it's me getting on the end of it or setting somebody else up for a chance.

On the amount of time it takes to turn around a team in MLS, and whether it's too late for the Union to turn around:

The record looks terrible, but it's only 12 games. We're not out of it yet. You know this league. Anything can happen. We're not out of it yet, and we're not going to stop playing.

If we play like this, we're going to give ourselves a chance every game. Before, we didn't play like this. We never gave ourselves a chance to win games, because we just did not create anything offensively. Today, we did.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.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.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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