Daily news roundups / Featured

Union sign Nikolov, Hack’s first year, Revs in Newtown, more

This is just a friendly reminder to continue face-palming and stuffing the ballot until Jack McInerney and Marco DiVaio are ahead of Landon Donovan in All-Star voting.

The big news of the day is that the Union signed veteran Macedonian goalkeeper Oka Nikolov yesterday. After 19 years Eintrecht Frankfurt released the netminder, allowing him to fulfill his dream of finishing his career in the United States. Nikolov had been a backup in Frankfurt, though he did start down the stretch and help his team snatch a Europa League spot. Nikolov is 39 years old, 6’2″, 190lb, and has played over 400 professional matches in his career.

PSP has notes from John Hackworth’s presser and info on the signing here.

In fact, I will let Hack answer the most prominent question raised by the Nikolov signing: “Zac is absolutely 100 percent still the starter”. Well, there you are, then.

“If I fly him in and the next game I start him, yeah if I were Zac I’d be pretty rattled about it,” Hackworth said.“But that’s not the way we will approach this at all. Zac knows the situation. He knows he’s still the No. 1. He knows we believe in him, we trust in him and we know that long-term he’s going to have as illustrious of a career as Oka has had.” Adding in subtext: No pressure, Zac.

Hackworth continued, now speaking about Nikolov: “He’s going to have to do an awful lot in our coach’s staff opinion to unseat our whole feeling of the potential of Zac MacMath and how good he is and how good he can be.”

So the Union have essentially signed the goalkeeping coach they were sorely lacking, but they’re letting him wear gloves and take up an international spot. I could have an opinion on that, or I could let the comments run with it. Hmm…


Andy Jasner has a sit down with John Hackworth going over the coach’s first year in charge. I’m not saying it’s a bit fluffy, but stuffed animals cuddle with some of these questions when they’re scared at night. For example: “When you surround yourself with good people on your staff, did you do that on purpose to take some of the demands off you?” and “I know you don’t like talking about yourself. But it’s got to be an awesome thing to have the players look to you as the manager. Do you take time to reflect on being the guy in charge?” 

Hackworth says that while being a head coach is certainly different than being an assistant, “…it’s something I wanted to do the whole time. I didn’t think it was going to happen the way it happened. But I’m happy to be here and I’m very honored to be in this position.”

The Union head man also offers this golden nugget for up and coming coaches: “A lot of my coaching colleagues who have asked, have said, ‘Hey, what’s it like being a head coach in the MLS?’ I’m like, ‘There’s great things. There’s some things that are more difficult.’”

All joking aside, Hackworth does seem genuinely happy to be here in Philly and determined to do his best. “I always think very positively that this is the opportunity I’ve been given and I would feel confident in my ability to do the job. I think you have to because there are so many doubts that can come into your mind. I’m not going to say that I don’t ever have those doubts but I always thought once I got this opportunity, I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work smart enough and I’m going to surround myself with the right people.”

Eventually Jasner gets around to asking Hackworth about Jack McInerney and the trust between player and coach: “I think you just said it, trust is the word. If it’s not the most important thing between a coach and a player, it’s certainly one of them. And the only way you truly build that trust is when you see things as a coach in a player and in the case of a young player like Jack, you have an opportunity and there’s production out of that player. There’s sustained production and he’s done all of those things. I think we’re in a good place together because I trust him and I hope he feels the same way. He certainly has continued to improve. I still always try to remind him that he’s got more to do. He can improve this. He can improve that. I’m most happy with the fact that he has seemed to keep all that and keep it in a good balance. I think that is a good indicator of long-term success for him.”

The best quote of the interview actually comes from Union color commentator Alejandro Moreno. Hackworth remembers that when Moreno was on the roster, he would remind everyone, ‘We’re all living the dream.’ Hackworth expounds, “I think that’s a perfect way to put it. We’re very blessed as athletes and coaches to work at something that we truly love, that is our passion. Every time it gets too hard, I always take a step back and sit down and relax with my family and I just say, ‘Look, you’re in a good spot and you’re still living the dream.’ I still feel like that.”

Hackworth talks more about his first year with the DelCo Times, saying, “And looking back on it, there are a lot of mixed feelings because Peter and I were very close, and you don’t ever want to get an opportunity at the expense of someone else’s loss, and that was on a personal level somewhat hard to deal with. You’re conflicted for sure, but it’s certainly something that long-term I thought wanted to do and a major goal of mine. And the way that the club and the players supported me during the transition being an interim, having to earn the job as a head coach, was a very positive experience for me.”

He returns to the issue of trust in this interview, and leads the curious reader to wonder why none of these reporters follow up the “trust” question by asking about Roger Torres: “I’ve used the word ‘trust’ a lot, and I’ve put a lot of trust in those guys, put a lot of faith in them. And they deserved it. They’re making me look good when they play as good as they have, but in reality, I think as a coach that’s one of the most important things that you have to do, especially at a professional level.”

Matthew De George follows up that interview with a story about how Hackworth has the Union on a path of “steady, sustainable growth.” Though he neglects to mention that the Union were on the same path about a year and a half ago.

Also, the total absence of questions about Freddy Adu is interesting. And I’m doing sarcastic airquotes when I write that. Seriously though, we have looked at three separate articles/interviews now covering the first year of the John Hackworth Era and haven’t seen a single probing question or foray into some of the incredibly important issues that hovered around the team for the last year. I’m not saying you have to jump the guy, but when you follow a coach who did all the wrong things, it isn’t hard to look good. Maybe poke around for something interesting instead of building him a pedestal complete with IKEA instructions.

For more on John Hackworth’s first year in charge, including both requisite fluffiness and a lot of the harder stuff, check out PSP’s reviews of Hack’s work on the sidelines and an overall look at his first year in charge.

More Union

I’m trying really hard not to make fun of the seven things JP Dellacamera thinks will determine how the second half of the MLS season goes, because it’s a useful exercise. But man, when you include, “Scoring Goals” and “Team Defending,” you’re making it tough on me, JP. The other items are: Trades and Transfers, Injuries, The Gold Cup, Inactivity, and Home Field Advantage. I’m a bit surprised “Wins” isn’t on here somewhere.

Major League Soccer is pushing for more television and digital content through MLS+. I could give you all the details, but why spoil the corporatespeak: “Soccer in North America and MLS are soaring,” MLS Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handler said. “To build on this momentum and inspire the next wave of fans, MLS+ will create hundreds of hours of premium programming per year.  MLS+ will also deliver new opportunities to leverage the relationship between our fans and the commercial community.”

Content created by MLS+ will include new television shows, digital series, mini-documentaries, mobile applications, lifestyle features, user-generated content, viral video stunts and more.  MLS+ will engage with fans, wherever fans consume content: on-air, online, mobile, social, in local MLS markets.  Distribution partnerships include NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com, TSN and RDS, KickTV, the MLS YouTube channel, MLSsoccer.com and a wide range of other digital partners including Yahoo!, MedioTiempo, and SB Nation. PSP is not listed as a digital partner, of course, because we prefer to live a swanky, digital bachelor lifestyle.  That’s right: Our pool of data is actually a hot tub!


New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps took his entire roster play a friendly, sign autographs, and express support for the Newtown Parents Connection, a non-profit started to combat substance abuse and other forms of abuse following the deadly shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. The Revs, New York Cosmos, Real Boston Rams, and Newtown Pride all showed up for a silent auction, 60-minute friendly matches, and a chance to meet the community.

“This goes beyond anything,” Heaps said. “Being from New England, this tragedy in December, it just wiped us all out emotionally, to be honest with you. I know we wanted to get back here and be a part of it and help any way we could. It’s a great opportunity for us to give back. We brought everybody. I think it was that important to be a part of something like this.”

Marco Di Vaio scored his tenth to tie Jack McInerney atop the MLS charts as Montreal jumped on Houston early for a 2-0 victory. Di Vaio got an assist from Corey Ashe, whose lame back pass sent the striker in alone. Giles Barnes missed a penalty that would have pulled Houston level before Di Vaio put the match away.

MageeMadness continued in Chicago as the Fire dropped the Rapids 2-1. Austin Berry handed Deshorn Brown an early goal but finished his own chance to take all three points for the home side. Mike Magee scored his ninth of the season – and third in three games since moving to the Fire – from the penalty spot.

In a battle between two former Union left backs, Jordan Harvey came out on top. Harvey scored the opener, his third in three games (!!!), and Russell Teibert took the ball off Gabe Farfan to feed Camilo for the eventual game-winner as Vancouver cruised to a 3-1 win. For those of you counting at home, Jordan Harvey would be tied for second on the Union in goals scored this season. Break out the HarvScarves.

And Pablo Mastroeni made his LA Galaxy debut with a one minute appearance as his team did their Philadelphia Union impression and played to counter at home against red hot Portland. The tactics paid off and LA got the point they wanted while anyone who watched the game got the sleep they probably needed.


Matthew Doyle notes that Jermaine Jones is going to continue his mercurial ways in midfield, the US team needs a Plan B when the opposition stacks the transition lanes, and quicker adjustments must be made when Brad Evans is targeted on the flank.

Steve Davis does his poutyface routine after Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron declined requests to speak to the media after the win over Honduras. I’ve never understood why reporters choose to air these issues in public. As Davis writes, he is part of a privileged “chattering class” with incredible access and well-established relationships with the players. How hard is it to ask a guy why he turned you down next time you talk to him? Because guess what: There is going to be a next time. And every column with a good quote doesn’t come with a, “And wow, these guys were really nice to stick around and talk to me!” at the end.

Davis is also right when he says the players have a responsibility to their fans, but he forgets that the US National team has their own website now. They can distribute information through friendly channels whenever they want. Additionally, Davis’ company, NBC, is heavily invested in MLS and, thus, American soccer. So there is going to be coverage of the US National Team whether they speak to you or not. So take it on the chin and be direct with the player next time you see him. And if you are feeling ignored, come by PSP for a beer and a moan session. We are always good for that.

Also, I have to add this USA Today story on Landon Donovan because the headline makes it sound like a threat. Yeah, I left soccer for a while by choice, but if you don’t take me back soon… I will start being passive aggressive! Oh wait, I’m already doing that? Dang. What Would Beckham Do? 


  1. Nothing about the Supporters Summit?

    I guess this is the most hyped goalie coach signing in the history of the MLS. But are we ever going to get players who will help us on the field?

    I can’t believe Landon Donovan has fans over 11 years old? I mean does he have fans who are over 11?

  2. wesucksomuch says:


    This is so fun to read…well done… and about the signing of the keeper I think it says more about the current keeper coach (or the lack off) than anythingelse… but how clueless is it to use a international spot on a guy that will never play ???

    • Don’t we have like 5 international spots to spare right now?

    • Hack isn’t interested in international players, sooo…
      Also, I’ve been thinking about our goalkeeper coach. First Seitz, now Macmath? Not doing his job very well.

    • Since the league (rather than the team) pays the salaries of non-DP international players, this is clearly a back-door way for the Union to have the salary of their new goalkeeping coach spread across all the teams in the MLS so they avoid paying it all themselves. Plus, this way they get an experienced backup in case of an injury to MacMath. I hope Hack gives Nikolov a fair shot to earn the starting spot, but I doubt it based on his track record.

      • I honestly think the best way to “push” Zac right now is to sit him and show him how the big boys get it done.

      • I was only explaining what I believe to be Hack’s reasoning. I agree completely with sieve that Ola would teach MacMath much more effectively by showing him how it’s done during real games rather than trying to explain it to him in training.

      • Jaap Stam says:

        Wow….If that’s true (creatively avoiding most of the cost of the GK coach) I’ve got to hand it to them. Sucks having no money though!!!

  3. God, Hackworth makes me angry every time that he talks.

  4. The fact Hack can talk about Wheeler at CB with a serious look on his face is infuriating.
    It literally is the kind of stuff that makes people want to punch someone.

  5. If I was Hackworth I would be “Rattled” by his starting goalie passing a ball to the center of the Pitch while he is 40 yards away from his goal. Does Hacworth think Macmath could backstop a German team to a Europa League spot? What is the point of the new goalie, is it to point out that you shouldn’t fall backwards when someone is shooting a ball at you?

  6. Surely nobody actually believes Hack’s statement that “Zac is absolutely 100 percent still the starter”. Does nobody here remember his “Gabe Farfan is our starting left back” pronouncement before this season began? Perhaps I am just hoping but I can’t imagine a keeper of Nikolov’s experience agreeing to be a backup for a wobbly kid who is CLEARLY not up to the same standard as a guy who has been a number one choice in the Bundesliga. The sooner MacMath’s droopy the dog impression is languishing on the bench the better, as far as I am concerned. That kid winds me up – if you need any more evidence than the shambolic own goal off his own face against the Galaxy…

    • I think the statement is false as well (you forgot Marfan getting the keys to the car as well) but I wouldn’t start him Sunday, players do need some time to et there feet under them. Do I think he needs kleberson time, no, but at least a week would be good. Especially because I don’t think he even has his visa yet.

      • He’s not available for us until the transfer window opens on July 9th. So Zac has 3 more games to prove he’s the starter.

        The last time we poached a 39-year-old keeper from the Bundesliga I think it worked out [REALLY] well …

  7. … then you have more problems than Pitor Nowak’s PR agent.

  8. Jaap Stam says:

    MEMORIES: How great was it having Mondragon in net for us? Having a veteran keeper made a huge difference for the Union. Mondi was probably our MVP that year. Why go away from that successful formula in order to groom a kid. I think it’s BS.

  9. I agree with you, Steve L. – give him a week or so just to get his eye in, but again I say he couldn’t be worse than MacMath if we literally had him change in to his kit on the plane and he paracuted in to PPL as his plane was flying over. Wait a minute… Union PR folks are you thinking what I’m thinking? Now that would be worth getting in to the ground half an hour early, never mind your stupid loyalty points!

  10. Hackworth should be a PR guy. He is GREAT at giving vague, generic answers to either completely avoid or just circle around a question. I think the reporters were afraid if they asked him hard questions he would just give them the generic answers so it’d be a waste of their time.

  11. You wonder if the Nikolov signing has future coaching implications, similar to Albright. That would free up Vartughian to do his technical director role full time. It’s not like Vartughian is helping MacMath much.

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