Union manager John Hackworth held his weekly press conference Wednesday afternoon. Here are some highlights of what he had to say:
On whether four is games too small a sample size to tell what he has with his team this year:
I think it's a pretty fair sample size, and pretty indicative of what we're probably going to see the whole year. I still think we have a lot of work to do and there's a lot of areas where we can improve. But as far as what we have right now, I think you've seen four games where you get a really good idea of that.
On having a go-for-it approach in a road game and whether that will change in Columbus on Saturday:
Not really. We want to make sure that it stings a little bit, last week. Now we have a different challenge in front of us. Columbus has been good so far this year and has been particularly good on the road. This is only their second home game, it's going to be interesting to see how they adjust and come out against us.
We want to go and see if we can get the three points in Columbus for sure.
On the importance of not falling below .500 at this point in the season:
This league is tough, because you have these little streaks. We know we're going to have streaks when we're really good and the points are coming our way, and we know we are going to have some that go against us.
This is a tough stretch of games for us, so it is really important that we go and are really successful and get a result in Columbus. That's our focus, especially with having not gotten a point, or three points, in Columbus.
On whether the team's flaws are of a technical nature, or something bigger:
I think there were a lot of technical breakdowns against New York. Our ideas were pretty good and the things we wanted to try to accomplish in that game, tactically I thought we were pretty sound in. Our technically execution let us down for the most part in that game.
It's something you can work on as hard as you want, and some days it just doesn't come off. I'm not going to blame it on some random day. You've got to give credit to New York.
Also the fact that [Thierry] Henry's goal was fantastic. World class, with the two touches. And the touch that set up the bicycle kick was a pretty good touch, too.
On the Union having never won in Columbus:
You go on the road in this league, and these are tough environments. You know you're playing 12 me, or it at least feels that way. We've proven that we can go get points on the road this year, we've proven that we can play even when we're not really playing our best.
I think that gives us confidence going into a game like this, that it doesn't matter what the venue is. The understanding is that it's going to be hard.
On whether there's pressure to win Saturday after having lost that weekend:
I think the pressure is that we don't want to turn the momentum that we've established early in the year.
On scouting Columbus:
They have two forwards that are some of the best in this league for sure. The way they play is difficult, because [Federico] Higuaín pops up underneath in a lot of different places and is very active on the ball. [Jairo] Arrieta is more of the high guy who makes runs and gets on the end of things.
But I think it's more than just those two guys. Their outside backs get into the attack a lot, and try to overload one side or the other. Having Eddie Gaven underneath, and Ben Speas is another guy who's done well for them early in the year.
And then you've got Chad Marshall, who's been a stalwart in this league and continues to play at a very high level. So we definitely know going in that it's not going to be easy.
I think there is a familiarity with their personnel and the way they play and I'm sure it's the same for them.
On improved communication among his players on the field relative to previous seasons:
I think that's just part of our staff. We want to make sure guys knows their roles and responsibilities, when they're in and out of lineups. That, to me, is the responsibility of our technical staff – to make sure that our players understand exactly where they stand.
And I think that makes the players' jobs easier. When they have to take some negative news they are at least getting it. And if it's positive news, they know where it's coming from.
I think that's something we have always done as individual coaches and now we're doing it collectively.
On whether he might put a greater emphasis on his defense within his bench Saturday, after not having any true defenders among his substitutes against the Red Bulls:
There's a lot of reasons that last week, we had a certain 18 that we selected. Part of that was because we didn't have the ability to select some players. We had injuries and some guys coming back from international duty.
So already the week has shown that it's pretty competitive in training and we'll have some tough choices again. We'll certainly go and evaluate whether we made the right choices.
I'd go back again, though, to putting Conor Casey and Antoine in the game when we did, it being 1-1. People think that when we put Keon Daniel in the game, it was an attacking move. Keon Daniel is a midfielder that I expect to play both sides of the ball, and I have total confidence in him.
It was not put Keon in because we're going for the win, it was that we need to put a midfielder in there because we need more of the ball. We certainly want to still try to attack, but Keon's a guy we trust to do it on both side of the ball.
On whether there is a mental aspect to trying to win at venues in MLS where the Union have not won before:
We just try to approach it like any other place. We're only four years old, and I think part of us not having won in certain venues is the fact that we just haven't played there that much.
It doesn't take away from the fact that guys who have played there previously with the Philadelphia Union know that for whatever reason, it hasn't been going well for us.
Last year in particular, we felt that all the luck was against us. The last two times, really – I have a sour taste in my mouth from some decisions that were made by people I'm not supposed to talk about in my press conferences.
So all we can do is control what we can, and focus on ourselves and our preparation, and not really worry about the fact that it's a venue we haven't been successful in.
On containing Federico Higuaín in particular, given his ability to create for himself in tight spaces:
You have to contain him or you're going to be in for a long day. We feel like our defense has been a strong point this year and we'll continue to make sure that we try to play with that kind of consistency.
That said, he's of a quality that you know he's going to get some chances. In those moments, whether it's Zac making a save or a key guy making a block, or a guy covering, or a clearance off the line, that's what you prepare for and expect to happen.
On the status of Kléberson:
We've had him in training this week and it's really good to have him. His quality is evident the minute he steps on the field. He's still in a process of adapting to our team, to our coaching style, to the cold weather here in Philadelphia that has greeted him. I don't think that's going to change too fast. But so far, so good.
On whether Kléberson will be available for selection:
He's a guy hat we're talking about a lot right now, but it has to be that he's the best choice to help us be successful in Columbus. We feel like our midfield needs to have a little bit more of the ball. We need to do a little better job in our possession. I don't think that's a secret at all.
He's certainly a guy that has a good sense about spacing and tactically, where he can find the ball. His touch is exceptional. So if we feel like he's the best choice for us, he's available for selection on Saturday.