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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moving on: A look at John Hackworth's potential replacements

For the second time in the club’s history, the Philadelphia Union have announced a coaching change Tuesday, heading in a different direction from John Hackworth’s so-so two years, punctuated by a disastrous first half of the 2014 season. In steps Jim Curtin, who is regarded as having the knowhow for the job even at a young age (34). Given the fact that Hackworth was hired from within two years ago, it’s no surprise that Curtin will get a definite shot at the job and be vetted appropriately. A “serious global search,” in the words of CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, is currently underway for a long-term replacement.
Former Union player Veljko Paunovic, seen here in 2011,
has become a successful coach in the Serbian youth ranks. (AP)

Who that could be is an open question, and there’s no obvious name that jumps off the page. With the downward trajectory of Hackworth’s last four months, the window has long been open for speculation, and some of that preliminary work has been done by my colleagues over at PSP. But let’s float a few names out there.

Jesse Marsch: Like Hackworth, the 40-year-old did a stint as a U.S. national team assistant before a less-than-stellar turn with the Montreal Impact in 2012 in which he went 12-17-7 in the team’s first MLS season. What should’ve been sufficient for a second season in charge led to an ostensibly amicable split with the club that was likely less than amiable. A veteran of over 300 MLS games, Marsch is the solid, MLS-savvy option.

Veljko Paunovic: There was a fair amount of questions when the well-traveled Serbian midfielder ended a three-year retirement to play for the Union in 2011. However that term is regarded, Paunovic has parlayed it into a successful coaching career, piloting the Serbian youth teams since 2012. Having played nearly 300 games in Spain as well as other top European leagues, Paunovic presents a more international option, and he’s about the closest thing to hiring from within beyond Curtin.

Martin Rennie: The options for recycled, recently-fired MLS managers are slim. I would assume Robert Warzycha’s similarities to Peter Nowak (fairly or otherwise) would lessen his chances. Former New England coach Steve Nicol doesn’t seem quite right for the role (plus he’s well entrenched with ESPN), nor does Montreal’s hotheaded Swiss ex-manager Marco Schallibaum. Richie Williams, given his ties to New York during Sakiewicz’s days there, is intriguing and a name that was floated after Nowak’s axing. Rennie is a young manager who was dismissed by Vancouver last year against the popular wishes of the fanbase, and the Scot could invigorate a youthful Union squad.

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