HACKWORTH: UNION 'NEED TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES' AGAINST SOUNDERS
"I was 16," Califf told me Wednesday, at PPL Park. "I played up top with my high school team and my club team, and that's how old I was when I first moved into the back. It was a lot of fun."
It's also a part of the pitch where Califf wouldn't mind playing again, should the Union's offensive woes continue.
OK, enough with the light-hearted stuff. Here's the truth: The Union rank last in Major League Soccer in goals scored and shots on goal. To fix it, before they head West for Saturday's 4:30 p.m. match at Seattle Sounders FC, the Union are willing to try anything and everything.
Primarily, the Union are saddled with the same problem that has dogged them since limping out of JELD-WEN Field following their opener: An unwillingness "to pull the trigger," as Freddy Adu dubbed it that cold, rainy night in Portland.
That's why Union assistant John Hackworth (pictured), who will handle sideline duties for the final time during Union boss Peter Nowak's two-game suspension, said Wednesday every player on his bench has been instructed to take a shot when the opportunity is there.
Hackworth said there's no reluctance to be an offensive catalyst.
“Absolutely not," Hackworth said. "We talk about it all the time – we want to get numbers forward. We talk about … wanting to create those advantages. When the opportunity is there, you don't have to tell a 10-year-old or a seasoned pro. The eyes get big and you know it's on.
"But you have to have the courage to take it. And there's a couple times in this first part of the season where players passed it. They've looked to the next guy. It happened Saturday night (in a 2-1 loss to San Jose). We're reinforcing it. 'Hey, when you get this chance, we want you to take it.' We need to create more of those opportunities, we need to take those chances and that's a good recipe for how we'll get some long-term success."
Big offseason get Lionard Pajoy has two shots on goal. Danny Mwanga, a potent contributor in the past, had an assist Saturday, but he came on only in the final 20 minutes as a reserve. The Union's leading goal scorer, Gabriel Gomez, is a midfielder who's playing out of position.
If there's a way to fix the Union, chances are it's crossed Hackworth's desk.