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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

John Hackworth Press Conference, April 29

In a lot of ways, it feels like through the first two months of the 2014 season, I've written and re-written many of the same motifs over and over again. So why not let Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth tell you the story by rehashing many of the same quotes over and over again? Here are some of the highlights from his weekly presser Tuesday.

Opening statement:
Our team is not satisfied at all with where we are. The fact that we are not getting the results that we want is unacceptable to all of us. I can’t emphasize enough that as players and coaches, that is first and foremost on our minds. At the same time, we continue to play at a level that we all believe if we do it, that the shots are going to start to fall for us, the ball is going to start to bounce our way. There will be some luck that comes with it and we will see a turn in these results. That hasn’t happened for us, and we’re all very frustrated with that. But we’re all very much of the mindset that we have done a lot of good things and we have to keep grinding away and go after it.

On the players' response:
The players have responded well. They’re all frustrated. They all know that to each one of them, they are capable of making a play when called upon. The reality is that we haven’t had guys make that play, and they all take responsibility for that. But I think there’s a belief within that locker room that they do have the capability to do it, so I think the response from them, albeit very frustrated and looking very deep inside themselves and at how we do things and what we do, there’s still a confidence that those guys are capable of making that final play, pulling off the final execution that we’re all looking for.

On taking responsibility:
I would tell you that I would take responsibility first and foremost for that. I think I have to be held accountable for that, no matter what. The players that are out there, they’re putting everything forward. And the way that we have tried to play this year and execute in many different facets of the game, again has been good. Our belief is that it will change, and we will see some results start to fall our way. We feel unlucky up to this point that we are not in a much better spot, and then I think we’d be having a much different conversation. The reality is that this game can be cruel sometimes. You can absolutely dominate and not get the result you wanted, and we’ve had that so many times this year that sure, the pressure is there. But we want to focus on the way we do things and how we’re trying to play and continue that because we are establishing a bit of a reputation for how we are doing things and those are the hard parts to the game of soccer. … There’s got to be a balance to it. I’ll take responsibility for that overall. The players and our staff, everyone should know that we’re doing everything possible to try to rectify that situation.

On potential lineup changes:
I think lineup changes, especially with the group of players we have right now, you’re going to see that happen more regularly because we have some depth. We look at our opponent and we look at maybe some tactical things that we can do against them. Specifically for the changes we made against Montreal, we brought in Danny Cruz for the first time he was healthy to start a game, and we put Fabinho on the other side. Our intent was to try to bring a little bit of athleticism on the flanks, be able to put us in the position where we could dictate the game, and unfortunately we gave up a goal early in the game and that kind of throws some of those ideas out the window. Cruz I thought put in a really good 60 minutes. Fabinho I thought played well too, but probably not his natural spot. He’s a little better coming from farther back, having a lot of room to run up the left side. But that said, I don’t think either one of those guys had a poor performance. I was happy with both of them, in particular Danny was a bright spot. I think Fabinho did enough that you could argue that there was perhaps a Montreal player who could’ve received a second yellow in that game pretty easily, maybe two or three times.

On his confidence in the team:
No question, I feel very confident in the group and we have a lot of different pieces. We’ve talked about when you throw different guys in, it looks a little different. But we have principles that we base our play on, and regardless of formation, the positives from a coaching standpoint is you look at those principles, and they’re being executed every single week. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re playing at home, we’re playing on the road, it doesn’t matter the level of opponent right now. I think it is an indication when you play a team like Montreal who going into the year everybody had high expectations for, and they drop their line as far as they do and chose to try to defend our ball movement, our attacking ability and play for the counter, that was clear, they didn’t want to play the game at our tempo, at our rhythm. That’s a sign of respect from our opponents. We just have to be able to again translate that into better results. We’re all frustrated that we’re not getting there, but you look at it and you believe that we do have the pieces to play this way.

On the role of Cristian Maidana moving forward:
I think people have to be patient with a player that comes from a very different culture and is trying to adapt to this league. It’s a big challenge, and there’s a long list of players that were extremely successful coming from other leagues around the world that have struggled here. We just want to put Cristian in a position where he can be successful. There are some good things that he is doing, and there are some parts of his game that need to improve for him to be an impact player of us. He’s a guy that we believe in and certainly will see a lot more of, but certainly he has areas of his game that he has to improve.

On the challenge of Seattle:
I think we’re going up against the hottest team in the league right now, and it starts with Clint (Dempsey) and (Obafemi) Martins up front. They’re very dynamic. They’re doing a great job, but their midfield with (Osvaldo) Alonso leading the way and if they get Brad Evans back and healthy 100 percent. Chad Marshall joining the backline has been instrumental, and they’re a good team in particular when you play in Seattle. It’s got to be arguably one of the toughest places to play. Loud, tough surface to play on, all of those things factors make this a big challenge for us. But going back to being my positive spin on it, you look at the way we’ve played and that kind of game sets up maybe better than it did last weekend. I think they’re going to try to play, there’s going to be more space in the midfield, more space in the final third. That should make for an interesting contest. And again, it’s going to be a little bit of a battle to see who wins those spots on the field, but it should open up more opportunities.

On Maidana and what is keeping him off the field:
Cristian, first and foremost, has to adapt to the level of fitness of players in this league. There’s a reason why he hasn’t gone 90. And we’re working on his fitness and have been since he arrived. That has been an issue. He’s getting much better, so you’ve got to give him a lot of credit and our staff that has invested a lot of time. And not just his fitness, but his nutrition, his sleep habits. It’s a different culture. In Argentina, I think you eat dinner somewhere around 11 o’clock, 12:30 or 1 at night. His kids when they first moved here, were bouncing off the walls at 12:30 1 o’clock. So all of these kinds of cultural habits have to be adjusted. Fitness is certainly something that we have indicated to Cristian that must improve. At the same time, his awareness, his work ethic on both sides of the balls has to get a little bit better. He has been a guy that we all recognize some of the qualities he has, but he’s got to put them together, whether it’s making sure that we’re not turning over ball sin really dangerous spots or he’s the guy that is going to connect that last ball, in all ways that is improving.

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