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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Not sure if you heard, but...the Union were in the news Wednesday.

Kind of a big deal around these parts, Peter Nowak was fired when CEO Nick Sakiewicz said his and Nowak's philosophies differed. (I would've gone with wins and losses, but whatever.) Apparently, philosophy was enough to leave Nowak on the outside looking in after two-plus seasons at the helm.

Enter John Hackworth, Nowak's assistant who will take over duties as the Union manager. We don't know too many specifics about how Hackworth will run the team, but here are a few incontrovertible truths we learned from Wednesday's press conference:
  • The Union, according to Hackworth and Sakiewicz, are maintaining the rest of the technical staff, and have not made a decision regarding whether to add someone to it.
  • Hackworth will be granted an opportunity to shed the interim label and stay on as team manager in 2013.
  • Hackworth confirmed he'd like the Union to be active during the international transfer window, which opens June 27 and closes July 27, but he said his priority is to show faith to the players currently in the club's locker room.
So, with 23 matches to go and the Union (2-7-2) in next-to-last place in the East, what becomes an acceptable finish to the 2012 season?

If you ask Sakiewicz, he'd say nothing short of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

“Now is really the time for us to take this season by the neck and show the rest of this league what we’re made of," Sakiewicz said. "I’ve always said the test of people is not when you’re on a 10-game winning streak, but when times are tough. We’re in a tough spot right now. We have terrific momentum going right now in U.S. Open Cup. … I still think the league is up for grabs. There are a lot of teams in this league that people are saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that kind of start to the season,’ and we’re only a third of the way in with two-thirds of the way left. I’ve been around this league from Day 1, and I know this league is won after the all-star game. It’s after the all-star game where teams are positioning themselves and have made significant runs. We’re putting ourselves in that position right now."

I'd agree. In my honest opinion, the Union's season can salvaged. Here's why: The Union are 10 points out of joining Columbus and Chicago in a tie for fourth place. A three-game winning streak, and a corresponding three-game losing streak by those clubs, alters the Union's season. Three matches. Out of 23. That's it.

The MLS season is a marathon, beginning in March and ending in October. You have to imagine the Union, who have played about as poorly record-wise as possible, have a run in them. Factor in that Hackworth, who's made a name for himself as a youth development guru, admitted he will give some of the younger, less experienced guys a shot to prove themselves, and you have a wild-card factor that the Union can exploit. When the expectations are low -- and let's not kid ourselves. They're low right now -- players and teams tend to thrive. The Union can hit a stride and turn around their season.

"There’s a tremendous amount of soccer left to be played," said Sakiewicz, whose team resumes MLS competition Saturday by hosting D.C. United. "We’re close and we’ll make those changes accordingly."
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Wednesday, I was a guest on the Philly Soccer Show, with Greg Orlandini and Eli Pearlman-Storch. We talked for about 20 minutes, about the direction of the club under Hackworth and the product Nowak leaves behind. Take a listen, let me know what you think.

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