Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth plays down expectations around Brazilian midfielder Kléberson
Brazilian midfielder Kléberson, the Philadelphia Union's latest signing, isn't quite ready to take the field for his new team yet.
Even though he's a Designated Player, Union manager John Hackworth tried Wednesday afternoon to calm down expectations that Kléberson will bring an instant impact.
"I want to make sure to give him a little bit of time to get integrated," Hackworth said. "Guys have to come in and earn it and one of the last things I want to do is take a guy off a plane and try to insert him in a team that is, at the moment, a solid group."
Kléberson came to the Union in a trade that sent Freddy Adu to Brazilian club Bahia. The 33-year-old has all of the necessary paperwork completed except for his International Transfer Certificate. Hackworth said the team hopes Kléberson will arrive by the end of the week.
"I think as an organization we're going to do something special for him, to have an official announcement when he gets here," Hackworth said. "But I want to be careful about saying too much, because I don't have exact details of when he'll arrive and when he'll be available for selection."
This much is for sure: Kléberson will cost the Union a lot less than Adu did. The Union's first ever Designated Player, Adu signed a three-and-a-half year guaranteed contract when he joined the Union in the summer of 2011.
Kléberson comes to Philadelphia on a loan through the end of the season, with options to purchase his rights or extend the deal after that.
"It is definitely an advantage to have a player of his stature, who is in the later part of his career, come in on loan," Hackworth said. "That does make sense financially for our organization, where we are. We feel like in this particular situation, we have brought in someone who can add a ton to our team, but at the same time, we're not putting so much on the line that he's the one who has to change everything."
As for where Kléberson will fit in tactically with the Union, Hackworth expects him to be a "central player" in midfield.
"The opportunity presents itself that he could be somewhere between where Brian Carroll and Michael Farfan play - perhaps where Keon [Daniel] is," Hackworth said. "We want to make sure that we do see him on the training field, and integrate him in a proper way."
After discussing Kléberson, Hackworth turned his attention to Saturday's showdown with the rival New York Red Bulls (3:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network). It will be the first of two trips to Red Bull Arena for the Union this season.
Hackworth is well aware that the team has never won at one of Major League Soccer's signature venues.
"I do think that weighs on everybody's mind," he said. "We felt like last year, our last game up there [a 2-0 loss on July 21], we played better than the result showed. The guys that played in that game who are still in our locker room want to go back up there and prove that they're capable of getting a result."
This time, the Union travel north carrying a lot of momentum from two straight wins. New York, meanwhile, has managed only two ties from four games this season.
The Red Bulls have a new coach in Mike Petke, and superstar forward Thierry Henry has yet to score this year. But Hackworth isn't buying the idea that New York is struggling.
"They've played much better than their record reflects," he said. "I think with the leadership they have within that locker room, with Mike at the helm, I think they know what they're capable of doing – it's just a matter of doing it."
Hackworth's team is mostly at full health. The Union had a bye from league action on Saturday, and filled the time with a 1-0 exhibition win over Mexican club Pumas UNAM. As of now, Hackworth's only concerns are midfielder Gabriel Farfan and forward Conor Casey, both of whom are battling hamstring strains.
"Gabriel Farfan has a nagging hamstring that's bothering him, and I'm not sure [how that's] going to play out," Hackworth said. "Conor Casey – I've said this every week for the last three weeks, but I think he's going to be available and 100 percent healthy."
Hackworth acknowledged that Casey's status has changed often from day to day recently.
"I haven't lied when I've said that in these press conferences – it just changes every Thursday and Friday," Hackworth said.
This much hasn't changed: the Red Bulls are the Union's fiercest rival. The season's first game between the teams looms in just a few days.