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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Hackworth's press conference notes, June 19

A lot was said today by Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth on a variety of topics. The top one certainly was the acquisition of goalkeeper Oka Nikolov, I'll have a little more on that later. But the rest of the talk here from Hackworth.

On the stretch that lies ahead, starting with the New York Red Bulls Sunday:
We think it’s going to be a very difficult stretch, maybe one of the more difficult stretches of the year that we’re going to have. Particularly with how good Dallas has been this year, they’re probably a little bit of a surprise in the league, the fact that they’re number on in the Supporters Shield and the top team in the league right now. New York is not a surprise. The quality that they have is apparent to everyone, and they’re a good team. So then you have to go on the road and take on Salt Lake which you’re dealing with not only one of the best teams in the league but you’re playing at elevation, and then you turn around and go to probably one of the hottest places in the hottest month of the year and play a team that has an unbelievable home record in Houston. So this is going to be a huge set of games for us, these next four. We talk about the parity in the league all the time, and we’re going to have to go through these four and face four very good opponents. But we’ve done that this season so far, and while it hasn’t been smooth sailing so far, I like where we are and I like the way we’ve rebounded from adversity and from poor performances and the way we’ve kind of grinded out results at times and especially we’ve been a tough team on the road. I like our chances, and I’m really glad we have those first two at home.

On the comparison to last year's West Coast swing to Houston and Los Angeles:

Yes and no, but it’s a little different because having Houston as the second leg of that trip makes it significantly harder. Both heir home record and the fact that you’re playing in the heat and humidity on one of the smallest fields in the league, it’s a game-changer. So that’s different. When we played Houston first and then went to LA, you go to LA and you’re playing a different style and you’re playing a night game, I think we even had guys wearing jackets on the sidelines during that game because it was a little cool, and that makes a big difference when you’re playing two games like that.

On if Hackworth feels different about his team after the recent friendlies:
Long story short, no. I don’t feel any differently. I shouldn’t say any differently, but I still feel good about where we are. I was obviously not happy with our performance in the open cup. But our play in the friendly and giving some guys an opportunity to be on the field, showed some good improvement and some guys that are versatile. I talked about Aaron Wheeler before, and he played at center back again last night against Harrisburg, and that significantly changes from a coaching standpoint where we feel we’ve been and where we feel we may have some cover where we didn’t feel we previously did.

On the absence of Jamison Olave and Juninho from the Red Bulls side Sunday:
It does. I would also point out that Olave is not there, so they’re down two of their key players, but they are certainly a deep team, and when you follow their results and their lineups this year, they’ve often had a better result when they’ve had one or two of their guys out and some guys waiting in the wings ready. That’s hard in this league. It’s easy to take a big-name player out and think that you’re going to get an easier game, and what you discover is that the guy who is second in line is working really hard and is super motivated to have a good performance and prove to the coaching staff and the fans that they don’t belong. So we don’t ever take it lightly. What it changes a little is our scouting and our preparation and our planning.

On the impact of playing in the national spotlight Sunday:
We’re going to try to do what we’ve done very game this year and go out and put a good performance on the field. I think the fact that it’s under probably the biggest spotlight that we have in our league at the moment being on a Sunday as a standalone game and on national TV, at home against one of our main rivals, it puts a lot of – I wouldn’t call it pressure – it puts a lot of opportunity out there for us. Because this is a chance for a young team, a club that I think we constantly scrap even within our own fan base for the respect that I think we deserve a lot more of. I wrote some notes here, Chris gives me some notes. We’re third in the East right now; we’re sixth in the supporters’ shield. If you would’ve asked me back in February if I would’ve take going into this stretch of games with those two stats, I would’ve said absolutely, I’ll take it. It hasn’t been perfect; it hasn’t been smooth. But I think it’s reflective of the league in general that there is a lot of parity, that you have these games that are so close. But when you look at our record so far and we’re almost halfway through, I like where we are.

On concerns about the number of goals conceded this season:
There’s no question that we’re a little thin on defense right now. But we like our defense, both that specific line, our back four, and our goalkeeper. We’re young, we’re going to have some inconsistent performances and have some growing pains, but we like it. And that’s one reason why it’s been pretty consistent the whole way through. I think the goal against average can be skewed big time though, especially the way we’ve played games. When you look at our game against LA and you look at our game against Montreal, those are games that opened up. And as a coaching staff, we can go into it and instruct our players, hey we’re down a goal, let’s cut our losses and go home. We haven’t done that at all. We keep going after it; we keep attacking. That that’s not a defensive thing. That’s a team mentality. I think you get a lot of positives out of that when you have young players as well, so I don’t worry about the goal against as much as I’m pleased with the fact that we’ve scored a lot. I think we can improve in those areas dramatically; I think it’s one of the easiest things to do, from a coaching standpoint at least, but I don’t think that statistic is indicative of where we’ve been and how good we’ve been.

On the battle for respect this season:
That’s an excellent question, and I don’t know. Part of it’s Philly, and this town has a high expectation for their teams. But I think if you look at it, if you really sit back and anybody who would’ve gone through the last year of what this club and this organization went with, I’d hope that like me, if somebody had said, hey we’ll give you third place in the east in the middle of June, most people would’ve said OK. But I think that’s part of this culture, part of this city and part of the desire to be a champion, and we certainly have those aspirations for sure, but we know that there’s a process to get there, I guess is what my major point would be. And you need patience, you need time to do those things to really build something that is long-lasting and solid.

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