Featured / Local / Union

RE: Message from John Hackworth

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Philadelphia Union sent an email to Union fans Monday morning with a message from Union manager John Hackworth. PSP can’t find Hack’s email address, so here’s an open letter in reply.

Dear John,

I got your email! Thanks for writing. I appreciate the candor. It was well-timed, because your team looks pretty mediocre lately.

When you wrote, “The club isn’t going to dance around the results or give you any fluff,” I thought to myself, Good. Fluff is bad.

And when you wrote, “This year has not gone the way we planned it and it needs to be better,” I nodded sagely before wondering what Peter Nowak’s plan actually was back in January.

Then you said, “My staff and I promise you that we will do everything we can to get us back to the level of soccer you expect and deserve.”

Promises are good.

Philadelphia Union reminds me of a car that’s driven off the road into a Berks (or Salem!) County cornfield. You’re stuck in the field. You’ve trampled over loads of good corn, and it’s stuck in the wheels and up under the engine. So you have to clear out all the stalks, get your car out of the field while wrecking some more corn, and then drive home with popcorn shooting out the wheel wells.*

The Union are still getting out of the cornfield.

It could be worse. You could be Toronto FC.

They’ve run their club so badly for so long that what was once the best fan base in MLS turned out maybe 5,000 people to BMO Field for Saturday’s game against your Union. TFC drove off their two best hometown players, Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman, only to see De Rosario named MVP the next season with D.C. and de Guzman immediately return to a high standard in Dallas at his natural position, defensive midfield. (Toronto tried repeatedly to make him an attacker.) Paul Mariner wanted de Guzman out so badly that Toronto is paying his $1.9 million salary. Newcomer Darren O’Dea called the team “mentally weak” after Saturday’s game, throwing his teammates under the bus for the second time in a week.

Alienating fans and players, playing bad soccer, and giving away talented players for nothing (cough, cough, Danny Mwanga) — The Union stopped doing that in June.

Today, John, your Union are a young team a few key veterans short of real quality.

And you’re reaching out to fans in ways not seen since 2010.

It started with your email Monday morning.

Then, Union players did something in the afternoon I’d never previously seen in major pro sports. They picked up the phone and called fans to thank them for renewing their season tickets.

“Brian Carroll from the @PhilaUnion just called my house !!” Union fan Mike Dunckley tweeted. “He thanked us for renewing our season tickets and for our support… #CLASSACT !!”

Jim Leslie tweeted, “I just missed my call from Chase Harrison. What a great idea to reach out to the fans that way!”

Chrissy Sakers also missed her call from right back Sheanon Williams and tweeted, “Of course I was busy doing X-rays when @sheanonwilliams calls to thank me for renewing my @PhilaUnion tickets.”

Even midfielder Danny Cruz felt bad about it and made his own desperate plea: “If the @PhilaUnion are calling you right now and you renewed your season tickets..pick up! I don’t want to leave more voicemails!”

The Union’s gesture was so unexpected that some people probably didn’t believe it, as Williams dryly noted on Twitter: “good time 2day at the @PhilaUnion ticket office calling fans that renewed tickets pretty sure one guy thought I was a bill Collector”.

Would the Union be doing this if not for the legitimate fear of losing season ticket holders after this year’s debacle? Maybe not, the cynic says. And maybe, says the idealist, they would have kept this up all along if not for Nowak’s reign of terror after former team president Tom Veit left.

So John, when you write, “I really like this group of guys in our locker room,” many people probably can’t help but think, Yeah, me too. Because you guys were really likeable on Monday.

More importantly, when you continue with, “and we have a great core of young players that will be the foundation of this team for years to come,” it’s hard to dispute that.

There is a core of good, young players on this team. The foundation is there.

You see, the best propaganda is the truth. People are more likely to believe it.

Now go get a veteran striker and fix your midfield.

Yours truly,


* PS: I know you appreciated my cornfield metaphor, John. Come on. Admit it.


  1. I fear the young players (aka cheap) plan isn’t much different from Nowak. Trading away a true striker (Pajoy) for a MF (Cruz) doesn’t make me feel much better about Hackworth’s vision for this team. The defense is pretty settled we need a top quality striker and midfielder to feel like his team is going to be better in 2013.

  2. Now I’m ticked at myself for waiting until this Thursday (next billing cycle on my credit card) to renew!

  3. How’d you get the email? Is it because of being a season ticket holder?

  4. For those who haven’t seen the Union’s email, here’s the one I got:

    Dear Daniel,

    The support you have shown me since I took over the team has been inspiring. Knowing we have such smart, passionate, and loyal fans makes coming to the stadium enjoyable every game. As we move forward this season I want to let you know that no matter what, this team will give everything it has, 90 minutes of every game.

    This club isn’t going to dance around the results or give you any fluff. This year has not gone the way we planned it and it needs to be better. My staff and I promise you that we will do everything we can to get us back to the level of soccer you expect and deserve. I really like the group of guys in our locker room and we have a great core of young players that will be the foundation of this team for years to come. I believe that we have seen some real positive things in the last couple of months and we will look to build on that every game this season and into 2013.

    I hope to see you in the stands at the remaining home games this season, and that we’ll have you back as part of the team next year creating the atmosphere you have put on display each and every game since our inception. I can speak from firsthand experience when I tell you that coming out of the tunnel having a full stadium supporting us gives us all a little something extra, and I know the players would tell you the same. You have a bigger impact on the team than you probably realize, and we can’t get to where we want to be without you.

    We’re only a couple of pieces away from having a team that can play an attractive, attacking style of Union soccer and compete in the MLS Cup playoffs. We will get there and we want you to be there with us.

    For the thousands of fans that have already renewed your season tickets, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support this season. Thank you for your loyalty. And thank you for showing everyone that you’re the best fans in MLS.

    John Hackworth
    Team Manager
    Philadelphia Union
    Jungite Aut Perite

  5. A phone call is really nice of them to do and something that will help retain fans and ticket holders.. Winning games and playing like you need our renewal will make me renew. Unfortunately a phone call isn’t worth the price of season tickets to me. Results are now I’ll pay to watch a team thats going to score some goals and bring home results.

  6. The notion that the Union are just a striker away from quality is absolute rubbish. Any striker short of Didier Drogba could join the squad, and he’d just find himself tightly marked every match. It would still fall to the rest of the team to score.

    • We need strikerS, midfielderS and a goalkeeper. Also get Le Toux back.

    • The Union need a good veteran striker. They need to sort out their midfield, which may or may not be with the current players. And they need improved goalkeeping.

      I resisted the urge to mention Le Toux in the column. But … his contract is up at season’s end. 😉

    • Agree. Ultimately, they need to start spending money. As so many people have pointed out. They need a goalkeeper, a striker or two, more defensive depth, and a good number 10 (at least).

  7. Veteran striker = bring back Le Toux!!

  8. dave esposito says:

    Konopka; Williams, Soumare, Valdez, Garfan; Carroll, Okugo, Marfan, Daniel; Hoffman, Mcinerney…………………

    Konopka is our best goalie

  9. Players called some STHs last year as well, if I remember correctly.

  10. i remember seeing a video of mwanga, le toux, i think williams and maybe one other player doing this in our inaugural year so it’s not the first time it”s been done

  11. You can be nice guys, you can great with the fans, open, honest, forthcoming. You can write all the emails, make all the promises. But in the end, the only thing that matters is results. Sports is the ultimate results-oriented business. There is only one winner of a match. There is only one winner at the end of the season. The Union’s only goal is to win more than they lose. To be the ultimate winner.

  12. Of course they call while I’m at work. My husband’s brilliant response “Brian Carroll, THE Brian Carroll form the Union?” I do appreciate the call and letter. At least they are trying to reach out to us unlike last year. And though I would prefer to be watching a winning team, I am watching soccer, with my family, in my town.

  13. We are going to see more of the same crap from the Union next year, and probably for years to come. I don’t see a point in renewing season tickets. Its a waste of money. Soccer is ultimately entertainment, and the fans are definitely not amuzed.
    Why spend money on a team that just seems to pocket that money without reinvesting? No reason. No thanks for me. No matter who calls.

    • Kind of agree. Get more fun and enjoyment watching EPL games (free); case in point yesterday’s Everton – New Castle game. I don’t think they realize that they are competing with lots of soccer on TV. At one point didn’t they say they tried to grow by trying to convince ‘Euro Snobs’ to become season ticket holders? Not with seasons like this one!

  14. Frankly the best way for fans to affect change is not to renew.

    • no that isn’t how the union front office rolls. They will probably resort to cheap stunts like signing a local guy with bad knees. Or maybe Letoux.

      To be honest give hackworth an offsrason to sort this team out before panicking.

    • Yup. This is away too little, waaaay too late. They lost me for good when they exited the transfer window with only an injured CB and bought down contracts for cash in ownership’s pocket.

      Season ticket holder ’10, ’11, ’12 but not ’13.

      4 more seats for Hack to hock.

  15. best part of the note was the cornfield…honest 🙂

  16. I have not renewed yet but will be soon…good times, bad times…ya know I’ve had my share…Ill support no mwatter what.

  17. Nice to see some bailing on this team after one poor season. Seriously, you guys call yourself supporters? The writing was on the wall for 2012 back in January when in a matter of days LeToux, Mondy and Pauno were gone and Nowak was ranting that “Feelings are not part of my job description”. Piotr Nowak destroyed our team this season. Be honest, when Nowak’s antics robbed our club of it’s heart and soul did you really believe this was a team capable of making the MLS Cup Playoffs? I am gutted our team sits just five points off the bottom of the standings, especially after how amazing the 2011 season was. But I’m not going to quit on our boys.

    More then ever, this is the time when we need to back this team. This is a great group of young players who will only excel as they continue to grow as professionals. Go look at some of the positives from 2012, the emergance of Amobi as a very capable CB option, super sub Antoine Hoppennot, Michael Farfan’s continued rise, the raw speedster Reverend Ray Gaddis bursting on to the scene deputizing for Sheanon, an exciting run in the US Open Cup, third fewest goals allowed despite a back four that was in transition and a young and at time shaky goalkeeper. Sure, the negatives are easy to pick apart and over which we’ve all wasted too much time and breath.

    Does this team need to add some impactful veteran leadership, absolutely. And yes, I want to see Sebastian Le Toux back in a Union jersey leading our attack while partnered alongside the still young Jack McInerney. What this team does not need to do is go add another designated player. The one we have on the roster has not produced. I’d also argue we don’t need a DP at all, go look at how well Sporting KC and San Jose have done without one on their respective rosters.

    So if you want to throw a temper tantrum and not renew your tickets, be my guest. The Union will find someone who would rather sit in your seat and support a young team that’s going to do big things in this league. I know I’ll be in Section 116 with my wife and kids supporting the Zolos and singing and yelling myself hoarse the rest of this season and in 2013. See you at PPL Park!

    • Nick Sakiewicz and the Union FO took our STH money last year and returned only lies and contempt (oh, and also the second worst record in the league). Why should should we give them more?
      I like Hack, but “words are wind.” I don’t blame anyone that needs to see something more first.

    • Sean I completely agree with you that everyone needs to step off the ledge right now, but at the same time it’s important that we as a fan base let the front office know we’re not pleased with the way things are being run. Seeing 100 fans for a match might give them that message, but that’s not fair to the players who just go out there and play hard regardless of what’s going on around them. If fans choose not to renew I just hope they’re doing it because they’re unhappy with the front office, and not because the team isn’t performing well. 2013 season tickets are for 2013, not 2012, so it doesn’t really matter what happened this year. I have no doubts about renewing my season tickets for next year because I feel like we’ll take a big step forward. If 2013 is a repeat of this year, however, Sheanon may have to come to my house personally and convince me to renew.

    • How do you keep track of who will be on the team every week?

  18. My family will renew our four seats because to us, first and foremost, this is about having a professional football club in Philadelphia. Winning is great. I love to watch the Union win matches. But their failure to do so is not going to cost them our support. Let’s face it, in every league there are teams that have a consistently poor record, and they still have devoted local fans year after year. I love the EPL, and I love watching Norwich City on television. But, in my opinion, it simply doesn’t compare to being at PPL Park with 18,000 other fans to cheer on the home team.

  19. I am 100% behind this team, and will continue to be so, but that doesn’t mean I like what I’m getting from this team. I have no problem with people not renewing their season tickets because they are unhappy with the front office. After all, we’re the consumer “buying” their product, and if you buy a product it doesn’t work will you continue to buy from that company? Fans don’t owe the team support, the team owes the fans a quality product, just as any business does. It’s our money being injected into their account, and we should see a return from that investment. It doesn’t make you a bad fan, it makes you a smart consumer.

    I’m talking about not being satisfied with the way the team is being run, i.e. the trades or signings or whatever. That is different than not renewing for the simple fact that the team “never wins”. It’s important to understand the difference.

    I will continue to watch this team, continue to follow them and continue to support them in every way I can, but until I see that a clear attempt is made to move this team in the right direction – winning – I will have 2nd thoughts about spending my hard-earned money to attend a game in person. If you feel that makes me a bad fan I respect your opinion, but there are many fans out there who can’t afford to go to games, or just don’t have the time, but I’m sure they cheer just as loudly as those of us at PPL.

  20. I’ll buy season tickets the day Nick Sak is demoted/reassigned/whatever to a business development position and the team brings in a real GM to oversee the sporting side of the operation.

  21. I have had four tickets since the beginning. I would renew if the level of play was better OR if they stopped the revolving door. How do you build support with no consistent personnel? Unfortunately the nostalgia of going to a soccer game has worn off and they need to build a TEAM. The change in personnel almost makes it seem like a pick up game.

  22. I love my team. Go philly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *