Fans' View

Fans’ View: Expectations vs. reality

Photo: Earl Gardner

There is a great scene in the movie 500 Days of Summer, where the viewer simultaneously sees via split screen the main character’s hopeful, enthusiastic expectations of a situation and the gloomy, depressing reality. The juxtaposition of these two things has always stuck with me and the film-making used to portray such a relatable thing was really brilliant. It manages to show bluntly and cleverly how damaging expectations can be when reality shows up.

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge supporter of Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth, but I believe that he has done some very good things and is not afraid to “try s***,” as Bruce Arena would say.

Where I have an issue with the coach is similar to the passage of that movie. There are some glaringly obvious moves that could have been made to fix some of the hitches in the team’s dynamic, and it seems he might only see one side of the split screen. He sees what he wants, what he expects, but not what’s actually going on during the run of play.

1. Danny Cruz, Right Winger

Hackworth’s expectations:  Danny Cruz is a younger Arjen Robben who should be played on the right, consequences be darned. Hackworth and Cruz have a history together, which is important, and Cruz plays so hard.

Fans’ reality: We fans remember all too well the beauty of Farfan-Williams bombing down the right sideline, and it is painful watching the black hole of chemistry envelop the right side of the field when Cruz plays there. It seemed so obvious that their partnership was not working and there was a ready answer to the problem, especially since the Farfan central midfielder experiment had mixed results. I had it in my head for a while that Hackworth had face blindness and kept throwing Cruz in because he thought he was Farfan.  Alas, it appears loyalty (?), pride (?) or something else was to blame. Thanks to The Flying Frenchman for making this a moot point.

 2. Bakary Soumare, Trade Bait

Hackworth’s expectations:  Soumare would come in, play a few matches, show he could still run, then get sold off for allocation money (The Union way!). This would rid the team of the last vestiges of Darth Nowak and please Soumare. And we’d be a-okay because we have a crack pair of central defenders anyway.

Fans’ reality: Soumare-Parke was a pretty handy back line pairing at least for this season (with hopes that Valdes returns) and would allow Amobi Okugo to gain some minutes in his natural position in the midfield, (a fact I’m reminded of each time I stream a game and he’s introduced by a graphic that says “MIDFIELDER” across it. Even the Union graphics department wants him there!) This would have been a huge step for the future of the Union franchise and, with the continued commitment to serving our youth, a necessary one.

3. Antoine Hoppenot, Sub No. 1

Hackworth’s expectations: Hoppenot will run opponents into the ground on offense and defense. His tenacity and guile will overwhelm the enemy, and the pressure he provides will be enough to bridge the gap.

Fans’ reality:  Sometimes defense is necessary, like when you have a lead. And are up a man. I love our supersub as much as the next SoB, but sometimes situations dictate other things. You don’t tell someone to eat french fries when they should be eating a salad, do you?

 4. Roger Torres, Bench Weight

Hackworth’s expectations: Torres is a gifted player who needs to practice harder, and once he does, he’ll see the field. I have a system, and I’m sticking to it. Fans will understand.

Fans’ reality: To paraphrase one of Philly’s favored sons, “PRACTICE?!” We talkin’ bout practice?”

Torres showed in his short, yet effective shift against Houston that he may be the jolt needed to start the stone cold heart of attacking central midfield. Oh, and we’re paying him to just hold down a corner of the bench. Keon Daniel may be the most technically sound player you have, but he’s not the most creative. For my money, it’s Torres and we need him. Let the man play, give the people what they want, and a few more W’s may follow.

I’m repeating much that the fan base already knows, but my job here is to shed light on the plight of the everyday fan. And for me, armchair managing is one of my favorite pastimes. I can’t help but feel that sometimes, I’m watching a different team or game than our fearless leader. I guess maybe I’m just seeing the other side of that split screen.

15 Comments

  1. Good stuff, Seth.
    .
    I think #3 on this list is my biggest peeve when it comes to Hackworth. I understand that there are some cases – maybe even many cases – where having Hoppenot on as the first sub makes sense. But the fact that he’s always first (barring injury subs) is frustrating.

  2. Great post. It just reinforces the fact that Hack needs to go. I’d rather have a coach who builds around his best XI rather than shoehorning players in and playing favorites. Plus, if we don’t fire Hack soon I think we are going to lose Roger. I’d much rather have Roger than Hack.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Don’t forget that Seth said that Hack’s done some very good things too (this article was specifically focused on the negative). Let’s not forget:

      1. Taking Jack and Amobi off the bench.
      2. Getting Seba to focus on creating rather than finishing since creating was what we needed.
      3. Taking a chance on Conor Casey that has paid big dividends.
      4. Creating a stable lineup. Maybe it hasn’t been the best lineup, but they do have players playing with a certain amount of confidence knowing that one bad game isn’t going to be the reason someone sits for a month. Also, if the Union make the playoffs, it is unlikely that Albright will all of a sudden come in as a 5th starting defender (aka the Migs solution).

      • +1.

        I feel about Hackworth the way Seth does — there are plenty of things I disagree with, but some of the fan criticism elides the numerous good things he has done since taking over the team, to say nothing of the wretched situation Nowak left him with. A balanced view is in order.

      • The Black Hand says:

        No

      • Jaaaaap Stam says:

        I hate to say it but I have to agree with Andy. Sure I hate Hack’s line-up choices and omissions but he is bringing results. We are still towards the top of the table in the East. Much as Hack pisses me off with his horrible gameday midfielder selections the Union are gunning for RBNJ. And I do agree the stability/consistency of Hack’s starting eleven does help those players.

        …..and great post Seth!

  3. Southside Johnny says:

    Nice article and I agree with all your points. I do wonder if another issue (maybe a small elephant in the room) isn’t Captain Carroll.

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Nice work, Seth.

  5. Great One says:

    Very well put Seth. He can’t play Torres now though bc then he won’t be able to start Keon when he comes back.

  6. Awesome! great article/post sums it all up very well.
    I must say I enjoyed the Iverson reference.

  7. Thanks for the kind words guys. And I have to say I am mostly a Hack supporter because I have all too clear a memory of what happened just last year. I think Andy did a great job of enumerating the positives from Hack’s effort. I’d also say that he’s contributing to the development of a Union “brand” of soccer. Now whether or not I like that brand is a whole other conversation, but I do like the fact that he’s put effort into creating belief in his system and his system’s identity.

  8. Excellent writing,what a fan!

  9. Great piece of writing, Seth!

  10. I understand very little of what you are saying but I also love that movie and appreciate the metaphor. In addition, my days of playing FIFA Manager Mode have helped me understand that I, too, know better than lots of real coaches. Nice work.

  11. Personally, I don’t care for Roger Torres, at all. If the guy doesn’t want to prove himself in the offseason by working out and coming into camp in shape and ready to go and have to sit there in get in game shape while the rest of the first team is practicing for the season then so be it. He should sit. When he comes into the game, he only adds creative play. That’s all well and good but he needs to play both sides of the ball as well. I don’t care what system you play, you need to have 11 defenders when the other team has the ball. Not 10. For me, I think the Union need to part ways. He sucks up $130 thousand a year to sit the bench (if he’s lucky).

    And please, enough with the Roger Torres chants at the game whenever he’s on the bench. For God’s sake, just because 5 foot nothing doesn’t mean he’s YOUR “Little Columbian”.

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