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The Hackworth press conference: Adu, Valdes, Carroll captaincy, left back and more

Photo: Earl Gardner

After the Philadelphia Union’s open training session on Monday, coach John Hackworth talked with the media. Hackwork elaborated upon many of the themes he discussed in his recent letter to season ticket holders. He addressed the Freddy Adu situation extensively and weighed on a number of topics including Carlos Valdes, the left back situation and the naming of Brian Carroll as the team’s new captain.

PSP also spoke with center back Bakary Soumare and new signings Conor Casey and Aaron Wheeler.

John Hackworth on naming Brian Carroll captain

“Brian has certainly earned that opportunity through his actions and his character and the way he exemplified a terrific leader last year in support of Carlos….Brian has a really good group of senior leadership around him, guys like Chris Albright, who was extremely influential to the job last year…We have some new guys that are experienced as well and who at different times in their careers have worn the arm band.”

Hackworth on Freddy Adu

“We presented Freddy with a couple of scenarios. We would feel comfortable bringing him back under certain conditions. Freddy came back and said I’m going to stick with my current situation and play under the current one. He made it very clear that was his choice and he has that option. He’s under contract to us. But if he made that choice, he wasn’t going to be coming back as part of the team.

“We basically said if you’re willing to renegotiate, come back under some different guidelines, we’ll be happy to talk. If you don’t want to do that we want to make sure you clearly understand that you won’t be back with us….Freddy and I have had enough conversations that it was very clear between he and I. His representative Richard Motzkin was part of that conversation as well.”

On renegotiating Adu’s contract…

“When it comes to the contract, it’s pretty much financial. But a lot of it has to do with the role that Freddy would play within our team, especially if you compare him and his stature in our locker room relative to the guys that were in there. Contract-wise it was mostly financial, but there were some things that we wanted to talk about and made sure we understood.”

On where it went wrong…

“I should have started this by saying Freddy is a very talented young man. I’ve said it a million times before, but I don’t think many people have an appreciation for Freddy the way that I do as far as what he can do on the field and the things that he’s capable of. He certainly didn’t meet the lofty expectations that were placed on him within our team … that was ultimately what it came down to.

“He’s on a long-term contract that makes it hard for a team in this league with the salary cap restrictions that we have and so forth to do some things with a player like that if they’re not fitting into your plans and doing everything from a team and club perspective that a player is expected to do.”

If Freddy were to take a renegotiated deal now could he still rejoin the team?

“That time has passed. We’ve had many many conversations in that regard. This has been something that’s been in the works for months.”

What is the status of trying to move Freddy?

“There’s lots of teams around the world that have been interested. He certainly has a name that has a lot of value. I think that’s where coaches look at some of the things he is able to do as a player. He’s got talent, there’s no question about that. But how he puts that all together, that’s up to Freddy. For us, it didn’t amount to everything that we expected. Not for this team, not for going forward under the philosophy that this club was founded on and the direction that we want to have a long lasting future with.

“We’re trying to find a situation that’s good for the Philadelphia Union and one that’s good for Freddy. We want him to hopefully go on and have a very successful career. He’s only 23 years old, he’s got a lot in front of him. At the same time, it has to be something that works for us as well.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we’re going to continue to work on it.”

Hackworth on Carlos Valdes

“I’m planning on the fact that he’ll be back here next year. But the reality is that if he starts for Columbia as they get closer to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup that changes life for Carlos in a big way. It would also change things for us in a big way. I don’t want to speculate what can happen and what can’t happen. This is an opportunity that we feel is good for Carlos. We’re trying to make the best out of it. But at no point are we saying this is the last time we’ll see Carlos Valdes in a Union uniform. It’s simply a loan. These kinds of things happen all the time in this business.  Something that was good for both the player and the club.”

Hackworth on left back

On Gabe Farfan

“Gabe Farfan is our starting left back. He’s without a doubt one of the best left backs in terms of just soccer ability. He might not be a true left back, but the way that we play and our style, we want our left back to be an attacking player and he’s very good at that. Not to say that he was perfect last year. He’s still a young guy who two years into that position was developing. You have some other guys that can play both sides in the back: Sheanon Williams, Ray Gaddis…”

On Damani Richards

“We’ve got Damani coming in as a left back. He’s an extremely talented individual but he needs time to develop. He needs experience professionally. He’s got a load of experience as a youth international, but it’s totally a different ball game at the professional level. We have a good nucleus of guys. I think it was a misconception out there that we were automatically going for a left back. I obviously couldn’t say anything because we hadn’t released that we signed Damani.”

Hackworth on playing 4-3-3

“I think we want to develop into a team that is a little bit flexible, maybe take advantage of our opponents tactically. So it’s not that we’re going to be totally set. But I think you’ll see a reoccurring theme in that we’ll have good mobility, that we want to play an attacking possession style that is built on a short passing game. We’ll try to overload one side and take advantage of some situations.”

Hackworth on where Amobi Okugo will play

“It’s still a little bit to be decided. Certainly with having Baky [Bakary Soumare] healthy and Jeff [Parke] joining us, I think you’ll see Amobi first and foremost in the midfield. His versatility is fantastic for us. It gives us a lot of tough questions for our staff. But those are the questions that any coach wants to have. He’s one of our top returning players so I expect him to be out there no matter what. But it’s a nice problem to have.”

Bakary Soumare on starting the season healthy

“It feels good starting the preseason being healthy and not having to think about the injury too much.

“I’m very motivated. The last time I really played … was mid-March in Germany. When we open the season this year, it will almost be a year. I’m very excited to be back playing with the guys.

“There’s still going to be competition [at center back]. Just because Carlos left the spot is wide open. We have to earn our spots, every single one of us … I’m excited. I’m just going to be working hard for the next five weeks and hopefully March 2nd I’ll be ready to go and all fit.”

Conor Casey on playing for the Union

“[Philadelphia’s] a great opportunity for me personally to help a team, to get some new life. It’s a good group of guys just from the few days that I’ve been here. I know that they have high goals for a young team. I’m just really excited to be here, to start integrating myself with the team and getting to know the guys.”

On his health

“I feel good. Good off-season. Looking forward to having a whole preseason — I haven’t had one in a couple of years … A lot of the times if you don’t have that preseason before the season you’re chasing it throughout the season.”

Aaron Wheeler on his best traits:

“My height. My athleticism. Everyone says that I’m fast for a big guy…I play hard. I’ll do whatever I can for the team as far as tracking back, battling. My body’s the team.”

On working with small, quick forwards

“It’s a privilege. As a big man you have to love a crafty guy that can run off of you. Someone you can lay the ball off to and they can just do things with their speed.”

There was a tremendous turnout at YSC Sports in Wayne for the open session. Stay tuned for Earl Gardner’s photo essay on the day.




  1. I think I am on Adu’s side on this. The Union management has a tendency to sign contracts and they try to bully bluff and renegotiate whenever they don’t like paying them. (Like to the City of Chester.) I hope he gets the hell out of here but if he decides to on his ass and collected checks more power to him.

    Also Adu coming here the length and amount of money agreed to pay him… NOT ALL NOWAK’S FAULT.

    • David Moscow says:

      Finally two people that get it. The Union tend to negative “leak” info inferring all issue that have arose are the result of Novak and Adu. Will the Union ever take any responsibility? I’m still waiting for the Union to cease the DOOP chant because it was a Novak creation. Do the Union really think that Hack wasnt involved in the recruitment of Freddy? He was never consulted about a former member of his last coaching duties? I’m happy that at least two others realize the press relations games that the FO are playing.

      I would also love to know who will be playing on the left now that Adu and Keon will not be returning…do we have any other lefties other than Torres on the squad? Of course, we definitely have a plethora of hustlers…

      Now that the FO, Hack and the supporters have the squad they want, I wonder what negative info will be leaked if the club doesnt turn it around? Will they still blame Novak/Adu or will it be someone else?

      • I got the same feeling, by the way Hack worded it. A player not justifying his salary is a risk any team must take when signing any player. Looks like the Union are trying to snake their way out of paying Freddy the agreed upon sum (basically intimidating him into accepting a pay cut), with the threat of a potential whole year of inactivity looming over him. What we don’t know are the specifics… is this truly due to his performance, his attitude, the Union’s empty pockets, or perhaps a combination of the three?

        And David… it’s really confirmed that Keon won’t be back? I don’t remember any announcement or even substantial rumors on this.

      • Mike Servedio says:

        Keon is still with the team. He was at practice today.

        Hackworth addressed the left side directly today but I didn’t include his comments. He mentioned Le Toux, Jack Mac, Keon, Christian Hernandez, and Roger Torres as all guys that can play on the left side. He was referring to the left side of a 4-3-3 and addressing both the midfield and the front line.

      • David Moscow says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Hopefully Torres and/or Hernandez can step-up and play out wide. It’s nice to see Keon there but is he really the type of player Hack appreciates? As for Seba, hasn’t he had enough issues out wide on the right…

    • Richie The Limey says:

      Are you Adu’s agent? Maybe his brother? There is no other explanation for such myopic, ill-informed comments. Please go away.

      • Hey! You made me look up Myopic!

        Look. Do I want Adu gone? Yes. Does the Union have the right to try and renegotiate his contract? Sure.

        But what they are telling us is that Adu is perfectly fine to play at 250,000 Dollars but he has to sit at 600,000. Of coarse not. They want him gone. So they rather sit Adu and devalue him even more just out of spite rather than try and get at least 250,000 dollars worth of play out of him and hope that is enough to help move him on? The Unions position is myopic (as all the cool kids say)as it makes it harder to move him and sends a message to established players that the Union wont honor your contract if you play for em.

  2. I have to agree. They signed him. If he doesn’t want to renegotiate then that perfectly fine. The Union is basically trying to (you’re correct) bully and bluff to renegotiate. However, he does have to consider his future. They are in their right not to play him. Whether one agrees or disagrees with that tactic is a different matter. Does he want to lose a year, and fall of the radar completely? The Union is hoping he is not. Hard to be mad at Adu, however.
    It also sounds that Hackworth is trying to blame Adu for the lack of meaningful preseason moves. He said that with Adu’s salary and the salary caps that its hard to make meaningful preseason acquisitions. Really, that’s all on you and your organization.
    Easier to dislike the Union, Hackworth and such a nasty approach. It is a business after all. Forget the sport.

  3. The Black Hand says:

    Adu is our best option at CAM. We finally have intelligent strikers for him to link with. We have no other REAL option. I don’t feel that Marfan is capable from the center of the pitch, nor is he as good as Freddy. Why not incorporate Adu in the team’s “plans”? (whatever they may be) This is going to be a giant mistake, the responsibility for which lies on Hackworth and the Union management. Freddy is a good, young player. Play him!!!! There have been far too many power trips, for such a young organization.

  4. Well I’m coming in hear with a view not shared by my fellow fans on here. I think it makes sense to move Freddy. So the FO seems to be putting out negative press, every organization in the history of professional sports has done that when they are talking about moving a player. Even if Hackworth did take part in recruiting Freddy he might not feel he fits in with his vision of the team moving forward especially at the extremely high guaranteed salary they are paying him.

    Hackworth had no power when this contract was signed and he is within his rights to ask Freddy to change the contract now. It makes sense Freddy is owed upwards of 600,000 dollars this year if I read correctly today. That is a lot of money for a player that clearly was not producing at that level last year and didn’t seem to get along with Hackworth. Freddy had his resurgence playing RW for the U-23 Olympic team anyway not the CAM he feels he deserves.

    As for Freddy being a young player, he is earning a ton of money as I stated above for a player who is going to have to grow into a position and as seen before have games where he has no contributions. The Union just want to pay him more in line with what they feel he contributes because he does not contribute at the level his salary would dictate.

  5. I disagree with everyone being on Freddy’s side. I don’t think these comments are all that negative. A lot of teams try to renegotiate contracts, not just in soccer either. when the player doesn’t want to renegotiate they try to move that player. Its not a big deal.

  6. I agree it is a bit harsh, but this is business and Freddy clearly did not live up to his expectations. I don’t think this is a bluff at all – if you listen to Hack, there is no way he would play Freddy now (“that time has passed”). It’s a shame because I think in Hackworth, Freddy probably had the best chance to be successful. I hope he enjoys collecting his paycheck at home. Should do wonders for his career and USMNT future. Sucks for everyone.

  7. On a non- Adu topic: How can you name Brian Carroll captain and then promise that Okugo will always be on the field, and hopefully the midfield. There are only 3 midfielders in a 4-3-3! Carroll and Okugo won’t be in the midfield at the same time. This is set up to be awkward around week 6…

    • Because we are going to trade him. That is what Captain is. The armband of the damned.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        The Union play a 4-3-3 with a holder (Carroll), a box to box (Okugo) and a CAM (Marfan). Lahoud and Jordan would back up Carroll, Okai would back up Okugo and torres would likely back up Marfan. Im not sure there is a problem.

      • So kind of a 4-1-1-1-3? It seems like a problem when your expected 3 starting forwards also play centrally. You’ve got nobody outside except the fullbacks.

      • Yea this is kind of what I am getting formation wise. and It looks clogged in the middle…


      • If that is our formation, we will be playing obnoxious direct soccer all season once again. There is no ability to hold a midfield in that formation. Especially if the opponent is playing something like a 4-5-1. I just don’t get it, the U is custom built for a 4-4-2 right now.

      • +1
        Mack would be a waste on the wing…he should be up top with le toux playing under him.

  8. Philly Cheese says:

    Adu only played well in the open pitch. Put a body on him and he fouled, lost the ball, fell down or gave up. His record of only a few full games per season was not due to consistent performance.

  9. I am having trouble taking Hackworth at his word. Perhaps he is leaving some key points out of his comments.
    “This has been something that’s been in the works for months.” But he’s still on the roster, so that tells you how well “the works” are working.
    “There’s lots of teams around the world that have been interested.” Until we started negotiating actual dollars…
    I have to think, looking at the league schedules “around the world,” that this deal may not be done until the summer. I hope I’m wrong.

  10. Just a big game of chicken going on right now between the Union and Adu/Motzkin. Motzkin has to find a team willing to take Adu off the Union’s hands ASAP or risk him wasting another year of his career on the sidelines.

    Regardless of whose side you’re on, it’s pretty sad that Adu didn’t work out here. When they signed him, I thought it was going to be a great move. Now, I can’t envision a scenario where he stays in MLS (except maybe Portland as Dan had suggested in the last pod).

  11. Im not looking forward to another 4-3-3 experiment. It sound like we are setting outselves up…were gonna rely far to much on our outside backs for offense…Carroll and Okugo occupying same spaces…what our top three gonna look like? Jack, Casey, Le Toux on wing? No speed on outside…
    Please Hackworth, let’s play to our players strengths, not force a system that hardly works outside of the Catalan region in Spain.

    • and congrats Carroll!

    • You realize they play a 4-3-3 in other places besides Barca right? 3 CM’s in a 4-3-3 is rather typical. Look at how Chelsea played the system, especially under Jose M. Carroll, Okugo, and Marfan would be a very decent “3” in the midfield. The width would have to come from our full-backs and the wide attacking players.

      • Who are our wide attacking players?
        Yes, I know other teams try it, but it hardly works anywhere else…Xavi is the key to Barca’s 4-3-3 success and I’m no so sure Okugo fits that mold.
        I used to love watching that Chelsea team…Robben and Duff on the wings was rather fun…but Mourinho became pretty defensive soon after…Mourinho’s 4-3-3 was counterattack oriented while Barca’s 4-3-3 was/is possession based.

      • Wait…Los, have you left the Dark Side? When did that happen? This year is going to suck if you’re going to be all positive on us. :o)

      • Its a long season…

  12. I personally think a 4-3-3 with a true target man in Casey and Okugo as box to box midfielder that can actually cover ground and pass can be successful.
    Williams can continue to do what he does in the attack, but improving his crossing will have to be a major focus during the preseason. Garfan is pretty good at pulling defenders out to the endline and opening up space for forwards.
    Marfan, Okugo, and Carroll are more than capable of holding down the midfield. My only concern with Carroll is that the team has to make sure there are outlet passes for him. I know at times last year, he had difficulty maintaining possession due to the fact that no one would show for the ball.
    I think the personnel is there, assuming Okugo is able to play in the midfield. IMO, he’s the key piece right now.

  13. The Black Hand says:

    Long balls over the top…right to opposing backs. Can’t wait!

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