Press Conference

“Maximize the points” — video & transcript of Hackworth’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: Questions are paraphrased in most cases. Answers are not.

How big is Saturday’s game against Toronto?

It’s certainly one of the biggest games. I think we’re in a position right now that — this game with two games left at home, being in fifth place right now — it’s important that we treat this game with the respect that it deserves. And our opponent is probably much better than people are giving them credit for. So it’s going to be a really tough game, but one that for us as an organization is extremely important.

Thoughts on Toronto

Their roster’s been shuffled a little bit but DK coming in and scoring a goal last week for them was really important. Obviously, they’re coming off a good win against DC; they’re gonna be confident coming in here. We’ve had two tough games with them already. We were lucky to get a draw up there in Toronto, so this one is a tough game for us. I know Ryan Nelsen is gonna have his team prepared and they’re gonna play with a lot of pride, they’re gonna be very organized, and those players have a lot to prove. So it’s gonna be tough for us.

Will the game require a different kind of intensity given that it is being played at home rather than on the road?

I think tactically we have to approach the game a little differently. You know, last Friday we were the underdogs and, quite honestly, we’re pretty good in that role. But this week, people are gonna say, “Hey, we’re at home, Philly’s gotta win to keep pace with the playoff race,” and the pressure is truly on us this week. But, that’s OK, cause I think anybody in our locker room would want it that way before a game is played.

What do you take from the two previous games against Toronto earlier this season? Do you look at the tape?

Yeah, but we’ve also looked at a lot of Toronto in the last two weeks. As I alluded to earlier, they’re a little different lineup and roster than they were our first two matchups when we played them earlier in the year. One point I hope is that Jack McInerney can get back on the scoring sheet. He’s had success against Toronto and, certainly, we feel that could be a great time for him to breakout and get one, or two, or however many he can put in the back of the net.

How will the team approach Toronto versus the way it approached Kansas City?

I think that we went into Kansas City and knew that we had to put them under a lot of pressure in the midfield and take out their  — they’re a really good team when they get into a rhythm of passing and I think we frustrated Sporting Kansas City a little bit. That turned into being a really kind of gutsy, collective effort on the defensive side for us. That has been something we’ve been good at all year. Here, playing at home, now the question is what do we need to do tactically against Toronto to try to take advantage of our next opponent and I think that’s a little different, although the personnel that was on the field in Kansas City certainly deserved the respect and the chance to go out and represent the Union again.

(Unintelligible question)

It’s starts with our leadership, and a guy like Brian Carroll and Jeff Parke, they’ve been good about making sure that we’ve been focused on what we can control. And even if you go back to the game up there [in Toronto], we were pretty frustrated. But we kept our heads and kept on digging and eventually found a way to break through. I think that’s something that we’re gonna have to do again. But I like that leadership that really provides our tone, sets our tone for how we’re gonna play and how we’re gonna deal with any adversity that we face.

(Unintelligible question)

Conor’s been like that for us all year. We haven’t necessarily played him in that role, but the ability to play in to Conor and for him to hold the ball up or just to battle against the center backs of the opposing team and then to be able to play it back into the midfield — we like to have that up-back-and-through rhythm — it’s really important for us. We need a player at this level who can do those things. Conor has a unique skill set because he can bang with any center back in this league and, at the same time, he’s got soft feet; you recognize the number of times he takes the ball of his chest he wants to control the ball and that allows us to move forward a little bit and get our numbers in position.

The team hasn’t used the five-man midfield a lot this season, the last time before Kansas City being on the road in New England. Based on that result, did you have reservations using it in Kansas City?

This was really the first time. When we were in New England, we thought of it internally more as like a 4-3-3 — it didn’t turn out to look that way in the first half up there. This is the first time we went truly a — we call it a 4-2 and a 3-1. But we were definitely holding two holding midfielders there and Michael Lahoud and Brian Carroll did a fantastic job of kind of zoning in behind those front three in front of them and it was a new look for us. Full credit to the players because the players ’cause Michael Lahoud had his opportunity and took it very well and contributed. I said it after the game on Friday that I think one of our strengths is that guys when they are called upon are ready for their opportunity, and Michael Lahoud was a perfect example of that.

(Unintelligible question)

Yeah, for sure. Zac, we have a ton of confidence in him. There’s no question of that, you guys can tell, as well. But for him to have that kind of performance when we really needed it? We needed to get through those first 15, 20 minutes against Sporting KC and he did a fantastic job of managing his box, making a couple of big plays, his distribution was good — it was a very, very good performance by Zac and that set a tone for the rest of us, for the rest of the team the rest of the way. I’m really proud of him. That’s our expectation, that he can play at that level every game. But he’s a young player and he still is growing and getting better and better. But really happy for him on the night and what he could contribute to our overall success.

(Unintelligible question)

Yeah, absolutely. But you look at his body of work this year and he has 11 shutouts, you know? We have 11 shutouts ’cause the guys in front of him believe in him as much as our staff does. And when you get that happening in a team, you get the defenders — in this case I felt like Lahoud and Brian Carroll were part of that defensive unit — so he had six guys in front of him that were very committed to doing everything possible to not get penetrated. And Zac, when we did, came up with the saves and managed the game when he had to. And that was great.

KC was a very physical game, what’s the team’s injury status?

Yeah, we certainly, in spite of some of the opposing coach’s comments in their press conference, I thought we took our fair share of knocks in that game. But we’ve recovered well. Keon is back and training a hundred percent. Danny is pretty close to being a hundred percent. Sheanon’s good. Right now Sebastien’s still having a little bit of an issue with his plantar fasciitis but that kind of inflammation is just something he’s gonna have to work through. So, overall, we’re pretty healthy.

Thoughts on the team not being awarded a penalty kick this season

I don’t think about that, to be fair. I will say, in all fairness, that it’s surprising that we haven’t had a call go our way. I certainly feel like we’ve had some opportunities but it hasn’t been whistled yet. Right now, I always think as a coach when you have some of those plays that go against you they’re eventually gonna come back, so we’ll see how that goes in the next four games. We’ll get one eventually but, at this point, we don’t want to put anything into whether we get one or whether we don’t. We’ll just deal with it.

Is this something that is talked about within the team?

Nah. Probably as coaches when we’re looking back at games then we think one should have been called — it’s pretty like “Wow, I can’t believe it.” At the same time, on the other side of it, there’s other calls that have been called for us and against us this year that have been interesting, as well. I’ll leave it at that.

Last week you said you thought 9 or 10 points would see the team in the playoffs. After the win in Kansas City, do you still feel 6 or 7 points will be enough with four games remaining?

Yeah, I do. If anything, the results from the past weekend might have — it’s hard to tell, but the results from this past weekend might have lowered it by a point. We’re in an interesting situation because our opponents that are playing for that final, or last two, playoff spots are in the same position we are and we’re all playing each other. So, somebody’s gonna lose points along the way and other teams are gonna gain them. So, right now, I still think that two victories and a draw would certainly put us in — and again, when you look at the math and you just look at some of the other results — you think 7 points in gonna get you there. But, we’re just trying to take it one game at a time too because this game right now is our second-to-last home game, it’s one that we have to put a premium on, unlike last week when I was sitting up here and saying I thought a result, a draw, in Kansas City would have been OK. This is a game that we really need to try to maximize the points.

One Comment

  1. This guy needs to get fired. He clearly has no idea what he’s doing. How many times do we have to hear “that’s not what we are trying to do but it worked” type of statement before management realizes this? The Wheeler sub last game was beyond awful last game and he’s clearly out of his league in MLS. If Wheeler was coming in as a defender I would’ve thought it was a good move. But he looked lost and gassed out there in his 10 mins. Hack has to go!!!

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