Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth: It was 'my decision' to dismiss assistant coaches

John Hackworth admitted Monday that he has final say in personnel decisions. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
John Hackworth admitted Monday that he has final say in personnel decisions. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

IN KEEPING TRUE to his name, Union interim manager John Hackworth did some hacking of his own.

Hackworth revealed that it was his decision to relieve Union scouting director Diego Gutierrez and youth academy director Alecko Eskandarian of their responsibilities late last week, confirming a report from the local soccer blog The Philly Soccer Page.

Although he does not hold the lofty "executive vice president of soccer operations" title like his predecessor, Peter Nowak, Hackworth said during a phone interview Monday that the decision to dismiss both was ultimately his.

"The minute that [Union CEO and managing partner] Nick Sakiewicz hired me as team manager, he gave me final decision," Hackworth said. "Long story short, this was ultimately my decision?…?We have a lot of skill sets within our current staff and with the changes and workload, it's going to be a big challenge for all of us."

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  • The loss of Gutierrez, who joined the club in 2011 as its chief talent scout, means the Union lost its only fluent Spanish-speaking presence on the technical staff. Although once listed on the Union's website as a member of the coaching staff, Gutierrez spent little time in the locker room with players, Hackworth said, noting that his presence, from a coaching standpoint, had never been immense, given his various roles off the pitch. Still, the question remains: For the Latino players brought in under Gutierrez, whom will they relate to on an all-English-speaking staff?

    "I am not going to say I am fluent in [Spanish], but I know enough in my years as a coach to be able to relate to our players," Hackworth said. "I don't want to go into the details of it, but?…?Diego was never a coach; he was very rarely in our locker room, if ever in the locker room. It was always Peter, myself and [assistant/goalkeeper coach] Rob Vartughian."

    Efforts to reach Eskandarian were unsuccessful, but the Daily News talked by telephone with Gutierrez, who chose to offer more diplomacy than insight.

    "It's an unfortunate situation for lot of different reasons, but I am confident that the foundation I helped to lay will continue to pay dividends to this club," Gutierrez said. "That's as much as I am willing to say at this point in time."

    In Eskandarian's case, the groundwork was already laid by the staff at YSC Sports in Wayne, the Union's chief developmental partner. Between YSC director Iain Munroe and former Chicago Fire defender Jim Curtin, the academy is in very capable hands, Hackworth said. He mentioned Curtin's leadership on a few occasions, so the former Villanova All-America could be in line for Eskandarian's position.

    But with the international summer transfer window open, one also wonders whether this an inopportune time to dismiss the club's chief scout. Hackworth said no.

    "Rob Vartughian and Brendan Burke will oversee the scouting of American players, and, on and international front, I will be handling that," Hackworth said. "Look, also having Nick Sakiewicz is a plus, with his wealth of contacts in the business, we are operating on all fronts. We have our eyes on some targets, but we only want to make a decision if it truly makes sense. It's about stability going forward.

    “[As far as Gutierrez], I think it's evident that [through] his job as scouting director, he had a lot of contacts and did a tremendous job, but I have traveled to all those countries and have some pretty good contacts in those countries, too, so it's time to move on."

    News of the moves arrived during a two-game road swing, between Saturday night's 2-1 loss to Houston and Wednesday night's clash with the MLS defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

    The Union will have its hands full with a Galaxy team that has won three of its previous four, and seems to be a re-energized club, with the return of forward Robbie Keane from playing for Ireland in the European Championships. The Galaxy will be without star midfielder David Beckham, who was suspended after Saturday's loss at San Jose, when he kicked the ball at the Earthquakes' Sam Cronin, but Hackworth explains that doesn't make anything easier.

    "Anytime you have to deal with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, you are going to have your hands full," Hackworth said. "Those are two international players on the top of their game right now, and, yeah, there is no Beckham ... but there is [midfielder] Mike Magee, who is always a handful. It first starts with making sure we get our players regenerated and recovered, but we don't have a choice in the matter, so it's all about making sure our guys are ready to go." 

    Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.

    Kerith Gabriel
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