HARRISON, N.J. - The biggest talking point in the wake of the Union's 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday had nothing to do with the game itself.
Though in a way, it had everything to do with the game itself.
That talking point, of course, was Freddy Adu's absence. His creative skills and attacking spirit were sorely missed by the Union, which struggled all afternoon to create chances to score.
Yes, the Union were victimized by bad no-calls by the referees. A blatant pull on Jack McInerney's shirt and an offside against Antoine Hoppenot that should not have been given, both in the second half, were the most egregious errors.
But the Union did not help their own cause either. Despite having 52.7 percent of possession in the game, they managed only two shots on goal from nine total attempts. New York, meanwhile, recorded seven shots on goal from 14 total attempts.
It's not a stretch to assume that those numbers - especially the Union's - might have been different if Adu had been on the field.
Hackworth would not be drawn on why Adu was not on the travel roster. All he said was: "I think Freddy will be ready for the next game," and that the reason for Adu's absence "is a team matter."
The Union's next game is Sunday night at home against the New England Revolution.
"I think Freddy is a fantastic player, but he wasn't here today, so it's just an opportunity for other guys to step up," Hackworth said.
The Union's interim coach then came as close as he would get to acknowledging the impact of Adu's absence.
"We can debate about whether we missed him or not," Hackworth said. "We didn't get the result today, so it kind of looks that way. But there are other guys on the field who played really well - Josué Martinez had a really good game."
Martinez started in Adu's position on the right side of the three-forward line. I don't entirely agree with Hackworth's assessment, but Martinez did make a few good runs in the first half, and forced a big save from New York goalkeeper Bill Gaudette at the end of one of them.
"We didn't execute when we had the opportunity," Hackworth said. "I'm not saying we played really well, but we did in a lot of ways what we wanted to do. Obviously the result didn't go our way - we're not frustrated by it, we're going to go back and try to keep making sure that we're prepared and ready for the next game."
On the whole, though, it was a frustrating afternoon for the Union. That frustration boiled over late in the game, when Hoppenot was booked for kicking the ball into the stands after the aforementioned offside call.
Hackworth was asked if that incident, and others like it, were a sign of a lack of composure.
"On our part, it's a lack of composure," Hackworth said. "However, I don't think it's unwarranted. I really can't talk about it or I'll get fined, but there's two situations - both of their goals started off opportunities where you think that the whistle is going to be blown for sure... It's hard for players and coaches to maintain their composure when that's happening."
After that, Hackworth was asked whether the Union might make any more moves before the transfer deadline. Although Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz told the Delaware County Times' Chris Vito recently that the team is "done tinkering," the organization is still sitting on a lot of allocation money if it wants to make a big signing before the summer transfer window closes.
"Only if there's someone who's going to really improve our team right now" will a move be made," Hackworth said. "We've made a lot of changes to our roster so far this year, so it's got to be a player who can come in and make a huge impact."
Hackworth added: "I would rather go with some young guess at this point, and play the type of soccer we're playing right now. I think that in the long term, we're going to be a really good team if we continue to do that."
Below, you can watch a video of postgame player reactions from the Union’s locker room. And after that, you can (and should) share your thoughts on Saturday’s game.