Season Reviews

Postseason roundtable – Philadelphia Union

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Another season is in the can for Philadelphia Union, and it marks the third of their four seasons that will end without a playoff appearance. Still, there were some definite positive signs this year. To sort through the mixed bag, we fired a series of questions at some of our regular contributors. Here’s what they had to say.

Evaluate the Union’s performance in 2013.

Dan Walsh: The Union neither underachieved nor overachieved. They took a step back toward respectability but seldom played anything approximating attractive soccer.

Ed Farnsworth: It was a season in which the Union showed great promise and managed many times to play beyond its shortcomings, which were largely located in the midfield. Ultimately, however, those shortcomings were too fundamental to overcome. Overall, a curious combination of alternately overachieving and underachieving.

Earl Reed: Sometimes in life, when we shoot low, we are pleasantly surprised. That nearly happened this season, but they couldn’t get the points when they needed them most — against an abysmal Montreal team limping over the line.

Mike Servedio:  Very average. A .500 record and just missing the playoffs is an average to slightly below average season in MLS. They managed to win a few games that maybe were surprising (away to KC and Colorado) but let slip away games they should have won (Dallas, RSL).

Greg Orlandini: I have to say disappointing. The team had ample chances to solidify a playoff spot in a weak Eastern Conference and never took any of them.

Jeremy Lane: I agree that the Union are still recovering from Nowak’s reign, but I can’t help but feel this season has been a disappointment. Regardless of how attractive (or not) the soccer was, the Union were securely a playoff team for most of the season until a lack of midfield creativity doomed them offensively. With players in the squad (Klebserson, Torres) who might have provided a spark much earlier than they were used, questions must be asked of John Hackworth’s decision-making. This team, one feels, could have been better than it was, if not much better.

Eli Pearlman-Storch: The Union played soccer in 2013. It wasn’t pretty, and it was often quite ineffective, but their competitive spirit won the day often enough to keep them afloat through a long year. Their ability to play frantic defense at the back and harass teams out of playing their own game often papered over the fact that the Union had no true game of their own.

Adam Cann: The Union never learned to retain possession, and it cost them numerous times. On the flip side, they showed that even the best MLS teams are not very good under high pressure, and this earned them some unexpected points. It is encouraging that the Union were as good as they were this year, but it’s discouraging that, aside from Zac MacMath, they don’t seem to have improved much as a team.

Can the 2013 season be considered successful?

Dan: Yes, but on a sliding scale. The team climbed out of the Nowak hole but failed to reach the playoffs when they were well within reach. The progress of MacMath, the back line, and the forward corps is a major positive, but the midfield needs to be fully remade.

Ed: If we can move beyond reaching the playoffs as the single marker of success and take a bigger picture look at things, the answer is yes if we measure success in terms of improvement: 2 more wins, 6 fewer losses for 10 more points than in 2012; 2 more road wins than in 2012; 38 more shots on goal, 5 more goals scored, and 1 fewer allowed than in 2012; first time in club history two players have scored 10 or more goals, franchise records for wins (12), road wins and road points (5 wins, 20 points), and shutouts (12); and so on. Perhaps more importantly in terms of the future, a core has emerged that can be the foundation of an undeniably successful team. Still, given the promise that had been shown at various points throughout the season, right now the abiding feeling is one of disappointment.

Earl: John Hackworth would say so, but given the level of talent that was left to the Discard Pile for much of this season, it was a failure on many levels.

Mike: No, it can’t. Yes it’s a young team. But any season where you miss the playoffs in MLS should be considered unsuccessful. We’ve seen teams join the league and find immediate success (Montreal, Seattle, Portland), but the Union have not been able to do the same. The Union also stayed in and among the playoff places all season, only to have it just slip away at the end.

Greg: No, I don’t believe so. They missed the playoffs for the second straight year, despite the a weak conference. They all but wrote off a promising young player in Roger Torres and inexplicably marginalized Michael Farfan. There are some positives for individual players, but overall, this is not a successful season.

Jeremy: No. Not when the playoffs were withing reach and the Union failed to grasp them.

Eli: Peter Nowak’s complete and utter meltdown was unprecedented in recent memory and thus, with respect to cleaning up the financial and personnel mess that was left over, the Union began the healing/moving on process. Regardless of what the product on the field looked like, that is a major step in the right direction. That said, on the pitch the Union is no closer to being a team that plays with consistent enough quality or chemistry to be considered a realistic contender.

Adam: No. Playoffs = success. The Eastern Conference was not very good. But that said, certain players can say they had successful seasons. The major issue with this team was that they didn’t find an identity even though the same 14 or so players played all year. Aside from Fabinho’s crosses and Le Toux’s free kicks, how does Philly generate offense next season?

Why did the Union miss the playoffs?

Dan: Poor midfield play and an attack utterly lacking in cohesion. One can only wonder might have been had Kleberson been a regular all season. Hackworth’s lineup choices in midfield were questionable much of the year. 

Ed: Too many dropped points, which itself was a largely a combination of shaky home form and a recurring inability to protect a lead. A mildly creative midfield would have helped.

Earl: A serious case could be made for a complete mismanagement of the team. They had no business being near a playoff spot in reality, if a preponderance of red cards didn’t help their cause.

Mike: Depth, lack of creativity, and team mismanagement. The same group was rolled out routinely, they failed to create (particularly late in the season), and when the depth players were called on, they were both out of sync and not up to the task.

Greg: They ceded the left side for most of the season and played without a consistent playmaker in the midfield.

Jeremy: A failure by the coaching staff to be flexible in naming the starting lineup. From the outside, at least, Hackworth’s conservatism led too often to very predictable Union lineups, which did not have the requisite attacking flair in the middle to provide chances for the forward line.

Eli: The midfield. Plain and simple. The deficiencies seen in both the attacking and defending ranks can all be traced down to a lack of quality in midfield. Unable to maintain possession, create consistent chances and maintain their defensive responsibilities, the Union midfield put the rest of the side in bad positions with alarming regularity.

Adam: Eli’s right. The midfield was a one way street for most of the season. While Carroll and his partner would do a reasonable job shielding the back line, they would offer nothing going forward. Additionally, Ray Gaddis improved but still offered nothing going forward on the left (compared to how well he rampages down the right, that’s a major disappointment) and none of the Union’s wingers outside of Michael Farfan can play possession football in the final third. The result is a team that wore out at the end of games against good teams that could make them chase.

What did the Union do best this year?

Dan: This team never gives up. All those late goals they scored, all the obstacles they overcame — this is a resilient team. This club’s challenges will only make players like Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams that much better in the long run.

Ed: Fight. With the exception of the 5-1 loss in New England, I can’t remember a game in which the Union simply rolled over when the going got tough. That spirit is as much of a testament to the coaching staff as it is to leaders in the locker room and the character of the players. I’ll never cease to be amazed by the chemistry in the Union locker room.

Earl: Draw red cards. I literally can’t figure out how a manager can elicit this attribute from a team while still trying to win soccer games.

Mike: Play defense. Ray Gaddis is still certainly learning the left back role but had his moments throughout the season. Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke were one of the more reliable center back pairings in the league. Parke was the veteran presence and Okugo the young, passionate leader. Sheanon Williams contributed on both ends of the field. His long throw and ability to provide quality service from the wing was valuable with a lack of creativity in the midfield. Zac MacMath had a breakout year, getting better throughout the season.

Greg: Their road record was surprisingly good. And they acquired Kleberson’s contract, which will expire NBA-style soon and provide them with cap help.

Jeremy: They were tenacious, and they played for each other. The effort was always there. They also showed flashes of a much better team than the season, taken as a whole, provided.

Eli: Organized out of the back. Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo lived through 2013 completely under siege. The team’s reactionary tactics, coupled with their inability to hold onto the ball, meant that Okugo and Parke were forced to deal with more pressure than some center back duos see in a career. The back four as a whole dealt well with the immense pressure they were under and emerged as one of the best, most battle-tested units in MLS.

Adam: Set pieces. Huge improvement in both delivery and finishing. The long throw is no longer a novelty, it is a real threat.

If you could change any one thing about the Union’s 2013 season (aside from making the playoffs), what would it be?

Dan: Michael Farfan would have been the starting right midfielder all year in a four-man midfield or a right-sided creative fulcrum in a three-man midfield triangle. Danny Cruz would have been a late game sub.

Ed: All of those dropped points. Given the unbelievable string of good luck the team enjoyed in much of the middle part of the season, if the Union had been able to closeout a couple of games that they were winning, or performed better against teams below them, they could have been running away with Supporters Shield.

Earl: I would have begun the Brian Carroll Renewal Project, i.e. move Amobi Okugo to defensive midfielder and trusted a Jeff Parke-Bakary Soumare backline.

Mike: Getting more players playing time. Roger Torres, Kleberson, Don Anding, and Aaron Wheeler all showed glimpses of what they could contribute in limited time. With Danny Cruz, Michael Farfan, Keon Daniel, and Brian Carroll (amongst others at times) all having their struggles, Hackworth was too afraid to mix up his team and give a chance to some of the guys lower on the depth chart.

Greg: More minutes for Kleberson, Farfan and Torres and less for Cruz. I’m not as down on Cruz as some who follow the team. I believe he has a role. But this midfield needed a creative force, which those three could provide.

Jeremy: I would like to have seen less of Danny Cruz. I like Cruz, and think he brings some very useful, but very specific, skills to the table. His locked-in starting position too often hurt the shape of the team, when better options could have been included in the lineup.

Eli: I wish Zac MacMath got his “punch game” out of the way sooner. Publicly accepting responsibility for his error and learning from it went a long way towards MacMath’s midseason burst of improvement and maturity. So too did the arrival of Oka Nikolov, an accomplished pro who worked with MacMath when Rob Vartughian, a goalkeeper coach now operating as the Union’s technical director, had other responsibilities.

Adam: Okugo in midfield, Carroll alongside or in defense. Philly could not bypass opposition midfields on the ground and Amobi Okugo’s passing range is the first step toward solving that problem. Playing on the ground means moving a defense side to side, which means Jack McInerney is hitting gaps as they open up.

Who are the players this team should build around?

Dan: Okugo, Williams, McInerney, Farfan, Le Toux, Gaddis, Parke, Casey and MacMath.

Ed: MacMath, Okugo, Williams, Farfan, and McInerney are the young core of the team. Casey is the kind of player the team always needed yet never had but, like Parke, time is beginning to catch up with him.

Earl: I think the second half was good enough to throw Mike Farfan into the grouping of Okugo, Jack McInerney, Sheanon Williams, and Zac MacMath.

Mike: Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, and Jack McInerney. MacMath looks to be coming good on the promise that he would become an elite goalkeeper. Okugo and Williams are passionate players that play for the crest for 90 minutes every match. McInerney struggled mightily to end the season, but Jack is a serious player who will train hard in the off-season, forget his troubles and find his groove again.

Greg: Okugo, Farfan, McInerney, Williams and MacMath. This is provided you can move Amobi in the midfield. I’d go as far as give the armband to Sheanon. Yes, Jack slumped mightily towards the end, but he is still young and a gifted finisher. If the Union can rework the midfield where he has a true provider, he could have a huge season.

Jeremy: From back to front: Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Michael Farfan, and Jack McInerney, with veteran assistance from Jeff Parke, Seba Le Toux, and Conor Casey. I don’t think those names are surprising to anyone, at this point. Some might add Roger Torres, but having seen so little of him for two years, it’s hard to know his true worth.

Eli: With Okugo and McInerney nearing the end of their Generation Adidas contracts, it is critical to re-sign one, if not both of them. If the Union elect to trade the pair rather than pay new, higher salaries, the Union will be forced into yet another phase of rebuilding. With regards to other players, Williams is a rock at right back, and should be for years to come, and after the Union committed a first round pick to MacMath, he is a mandatory piece of the Union’s core. While the Union have some quality veteran talent, those four comprise the true core of the Union.

Adam: All the younger players who got time plus Antoine Hoppenot should continue to see time next year. Who the Union build around comes down the system John Hackworth wants to play. Right now, his wingers are replaceable. Does he replace them with tacticians or runners?

What changes must the Union make next season?

Dan: The Union must add a central creator in the mold of Diego Valeri or Federico Higuain. They also need an actual left-footed player at either left back or left midfield to provide width, along with defensive depth, but the playmaker is the key.

Ed: Most importantly, they need a creator. They also need a true left back and proper defensive depth on the left and in the middle. Having versatile players who can fill-in in a pinch is not the same thing as having actual depth.

Earl: They must add to the depth of this team. Carroll, Casey, and Parke clearly needed breaks they didn’t receive.

Mike: They must sign creative midfielders. A central playmaker as well as a true winger would be fantastic additions. Players that can unlock defenses are what the Union lacked all season. A central player, with a wide range of passing who can contribute some goals (and hopefully shoot from distance) would be ideal. Two of the Union’s better wide players throughout the season, Sebastien Le Toux and Fabinho, are not even midfielders by trade. So a wide man who can consistently serve dangerous balls as well as contribute a few goals would be a welcome addition.

Greg: Either through a signing or the draft, I want to see a new, stud center back so Okugo can move into the midfield.

Jeremy: In the main, they need to be more fluid and flexible, tactically. Hackworth is, by and large, too rigid and conservative in his outlook to get the best out of his players, especially the younger ones, who will be inconsistent, by definition.

Eli: Squad rotation must exist. Players come in and out of form, and the MLS season is long and grueling. The Union must not only acquire top quality talent to become fixtures in the starting XI, but they must also develop confidence in their depth players. That confidence comes from minutes on the field. Rotating the squad consistently means that come the playoff push, the Union have multiple players who are fresh and pushing for spots. In 2013, the stagnation of the team selection meant that Hackworth was left struggling to piece together a lineup of either exhausted, beat up campaigners, or inexperienced players who had not been given an opportunity to prove themselves until too late.

Adam: The Union need two things: An offensive strategy and a defensive strategy. On defense, where are they pressing? How high? No more enormous gaps through the midfield when a winger presses alone. Offensively, is this a cross and finish team? If so, how can the strategy change so midfielders get in the box, or at least far enough up to hold in clearances, when the crosses come in?

What should be done to fix the Union’s midfield?

Dan: It’s not enough for a player to be skilled. The pieces must fit together. The sit deep, stay-at-home center midfield pair of Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll could never mesh with a converted forward (Sebastien Le Toux) and a winger who offers nothing in the short passing game. Find pieces that fit together, and start with Farfan and possibly Okugo.

Ed: Spend, spend, spend.

Earl: Trade Carroll, acquire a center back or two so Okugo can be the defensive midfielder he was drafted to be.

Mike: Find guys who can unlock defenses. Guys that can individually create but make the team more dynamic going forward and especially in the final third.

Greg: Commit to playing one or more of your creative mids consistently. Make Okugo your holding mid.

Jeremy: I feel like a broken record at this point, but Hack needs to trust that his full squad has things to offer. If the current starting group isn’t getting it done, give players like Torres, or Don Anding, or Cristhian Hernandez, a chance. Be more daring in selection. A new, creative face wouldn’t hurt, either.

Eli: Buy a centerback. Or two. That allows Okugo to take up the defensive midfield spot for which he should have been allowed to compete in 2013. If the Union don’t want to look to the draft to add a central creative midfielder, use some of the money they will get back from getting Adu off the books (assuming Kleberson is not re-signed) and go get a real, quality proven player to fill that role. And get Danny Cruz out of the starting XI. For a player who plays little defense and takes next to no part in the build up or possession play, Cruz’s 3 goals and 2 assists in 32 starts is completely unacceptable. Add in to that mix that Cruz went the distance only 3 times and you have a player who should be a bit-part player at best.

Adam: Move Okugo up and add either a veteran presence who can retain the ball or replace the wingers with possession-oriented players. The Union couldn’t beat teams that played a deep back line this season, and they couldn’t hold the ball when they had the lead. As Caleb Porter and Portland showed, it doesn’t take a ton of spectacular players to hold the ball in MLS. Just a commitment to ball retention and proper spacing, neither of which the Union had last year.

Should John Hackworth return as manager for the 2014 season? Why?

Dan: Yes. Hackworth has yet to get a full salary budget to play with. However, he has to show he can get the Union playing more attractive soccer once he has those funds. Winning is not enough.

Ed: Yes. Fans might tire of hearing it, but even this year Hackworth was working under restrictions that resulted from the Nowak era. Heading into 2014 he’ll have the money to buy much needed missing talent. With a full toolbox, it will be up to Hackworth to answer on-going doubts about his tactical acumen.

Earl: If it wasn’t for the devastation of the 2012 dismantling, 2013 would seem quite irrational in its own right. Adu? Garfan? Soumare? The benching of Torres and Kleberson? The entire mismanagement of the roster seems to fall on both Hackworth and Nick Sakiewicz, and ownership should seriously investigate the reasons why two different Designated Players failed to make a difference on this team.

Mike: No. Hackworth routinely showed over the course of the season an inability to manage and properly motivate his squad. With such a small group of players seemingly available for selection week in and week out, the depth of the team was tested when players outside the regular 15 were selected. The Union also failed to show up in a number of important games, most notably at the end of the season (DC, KC in the finale). Then there were the games where the tactics were questionable or non existent. The home match where Philadelphia spent 90 minutes trying to serve balls into the box against the biggest team in MLS reeks of poor tactics.

Greg: I think he will be back. I am slightly less confident of that than I was a month ago. Should he be back? The team will point to the fact they had their highest win total this year as a sign of improvement. The leash will be much shorter next year though.

Jeremy: Yes. In part because I agree with those who say he still deserves a chance to use the full power of his payroll, which has been handicapped by his predecessor’s decisions, but also because I am not convinced there are other, better options out there, beating down the door to work in Philly for this ownership group.

Eli: Teams should avoid going through manager after manager because it sets a bad precedent for a club. However, John Hackworth should have been seen as little more than an interim manager. Consistently out-coached on matchday, Hackworth persists with one of his predecessor’s worst traits, reactionary soccer. Even if Hackworth was brought in not as a game day specialist, but as a developer of young talent, he has come up short. When McInerney was mired in his slump, Hackworth’s loss of faith in his young striker was disheartening and served to prolong the goalless drought. Add in Hackworth’s automatic selection of certain players, regardless of form, and the picture painted is not one of a manager who should be handed the reins for the long term.

Adam: If the team wants him, then yes. The Nowak ordeal was so bad that this group needs to maintain a positive locker room. But Hackworth really needs to lay out his strategy going forward. It seems like the players he has brought in have moved him further from his initial goal of holding the ball (Fabinho, Gaddis on the left, Cruz). If the Union are a counterattacking team, put someone in the midfield that can distribute. If they are a possession team, well… lots of changes are needed.

Has the Union’s investment team led by Jay Sugarman and Nick Sakiewicz done enough to put a competitive team on the field?

Dan: No. The benchmark need not be Seattle, Los Angeles, or New York, but it should at least be clubs like Chicago, Kansas City, and Montreal. That means paying for a designated player to fill the playmaker role and potentially another DP elsewhere.

Ed: Certainly not in the short term, although the academy partnership shows admirable attention to the long term. But I’m also concerned about how competitive the team is off the field in the sports marketplace, whether we’re talking about its place in the crowded Philadelphia market, or in MLS. Fielding a winning side that plays attractive soccer will go a long way with this, but the Union’s marketing efforts lack a savviness to match the passion of the fan base and pale in comparison with some of the higher profile teams such as KC and Portland.

Earl: They have brought in two different Designated Players, right? Maybe the better question is: Why could neither of those two players fully integrate into John Hackworth’s system?

Mike: No. The team lacked depth and creativity all over the pitch. The defense managed to stay healthy and on the field for most of the season but when one of the starting four was missing, the team struggled mightily (see Matt Kassel vs DC). If the goal this season was to make the playoffs, few would have looked at the Union’s roster and thought they had the talent to do so. With so many teams able to invest in DPs and high quality international caliber players, the Union’s squad just wasn’t talented enough this season.

Greg: Let’s see after this offseason, which might be the team’s most important so far. They will have cap relief and 4 picks over the first to rounds of the draft. That gives them a lot of room to make some waves. Can they, will they? I think they must.

Jeremy: This is what gives me pause, in looking to the Union’s future. Building with youth is all well and good, but MLS is still very much a league of parity, and even a little investment goes a long way if it’s smartly done. I’m not convinced the ownership want to spend anything above the bare minimum, and that will hold the Union back.

Eli: No. And pointing again and again to the financial mess made by Nowak and Co. is not a satisfactory response. As an ownership group, they should have never granted Nowak unfettered power to run the organization into the ground, completely unchecked. That said, they have an enormous opportunity in this offseason. The books can finally be balanced and considered clean. Locking down, at minimum, one of McInerney or Okugo would be a good start. Then they must work with the coaching staff to fill all of the positions the Union cannot realistically address in the draft. They have not done enough yet, but with a positive offseason showing, they can put their team in a very strong place come the beginning of the 2014 campaign.

51 Comments

  1. Like Eli’s replies best!

    • Agreed! And if Hack has a brain in his head hope he secured Okugo and McInerney before they finished cleaning out their lockers on Saturday.

  2. One concern I have is the combination of comments that the Union need to spend money to bring in additional talent and also that they need to spend money to make sure they keep osme of the players whose contracts are expiring such as Okugo and McInerney. Are they going to have the money to do both?

    • No probably not. We should prepare ourselves for losing either Jack Mac or Okugo next year. My thoughts are at the moment if they had to pick one to keep Okugo stays.

      • This might actually make an interesting post – a sort of off season preview, with info about who’s out of contract, who might be available as free agents (or whatever kooky draft name MLS gives it), and so on.

  3. My biggest worry next year is simply Hackworth. The “Growth” of this year means little if Hack still plays long ball, cruz every game, cant learn how to sub, etc.

  4. You guys were great this year! When can we all buy you a beer? How about a PSP end-of-year party at 600?

    • That’s a great idea.

    • Thanks! We’ve talked about this in the past, but we wondered if anyone would show up. (Not to buy us beers, just to hang out and meet many of our readers after the season.) Do you think people would really show? (It’s The 700, btw. 😉 )

      • I’d show.
        Take that as a good or a bad…

      • I would, it would be nice to meet the PSP staff and everyone else who congregates here on a regular basis.

        Maybe a viewing party for MLS Cup.

      • Ed Farnsworth says:

        A viewing party for the MLS Cup final sounds like a fine idea. Stay tuned for more info…

      • Mark and I are in!

      • MLS Cup at 700 on Dec 7 sounds great!! Am sure lots will show up. Place may actually be too small!

      • I’m not sure what the 700 is, but I’d be potentially interested, pending whatever other crazy nonsense is going on in my life at that point…

      • The 700 is a pub in Northern Liberties. It basically oozes soccer street cred. Ed bartends there as a second (third?) job. A bunch of folks watch games there on weekend mornings.

        We’ll see if we can figure out something. We certainly know we’d like to do it. Time/date would just have to be figured out.

      • Great idea, I would definitely show up.

    • Absolutely! PSP should be very proud of its efforts. If the Philadelphia Union ever becomes a first rate organization, PSP will have been a big reason why.

      This wonderful article is a great example of the multifarious viewpoints the page takes pains to offer the public. I trust Philadelphia footy fans are smart enough to recognize that balanced approach brings credibilty, and credibility brings the public information because of increased access. It must be a tough balancing act- a fan and journalist at the same time. Kudos for getting it spot on.

    • Great point, Guido. This page has critical analysis, and isn’t just a team propaganda machine.

  5. I think a lot of decisions depend on Zack Peffer and how he is coming along. He isn’t worth selling unless someone overplays for him. And I don’t think anyone will.
    So I think some holes are mentally filled by him if the think he can contribute soon.

  6. I was clearly in the “Hackworth hasn’t been given a real chance to succeed” camp. However, over the last few months, I’ve felt myself continually questioning the validity of that position.

    The point that Mike made above on our tactics vs SKC was something that bugged me while at the match. Lumping the ball forward from the back in the air to Casey vs Opara, Besler and Olum was a mission designed to fail. And I lay that at Hackworth’s feet.

    When I look at what great progress that Portland has made this season by just bringing in a better manager, I feel like the Union need to go that route. They need to get a better, more experienced manager in and give him the tools (personnel, money, etc.) to improve this team as the whole Eastern conference is only going to get better in 2014.

    • The ‘give him the tools’ part is key, more so than the ‘experienced’ part. Portland brought in a manager with *zero* pro experience. It worked because they let him get the players that fit his system. Of course, it helped that Porter *has* a system …

      • Having been born and raised in Akron, I gotta say I love Porter. Love his “Death by a thousand passes”. If the Union played that style of soccer, I’d re-doop my second row seats for fifth season. Unfortunately, the Union doesn’t and I didn’t.

  7. Thanks to all of the PSP contributors for making this such a fun site to come to. You all do a phenomenal job in generating interesting content in large quantities.

    Very well done and I appreciate you all taking the time to do this as I’m sure that many times, it’s not so easy.

    • Well said – I agree. I live in Ohio and have to rely on PSP to provide me with my Union fix (I check the site multiple times a day). Though I don’t always agree with some of the analyses, I’m always satisfied with the interesting content and am continually impressed by the hard-work and dedication. Thanks.

  8. Amobi and Jack both graduated from Generation Adidas last year, they are currently on the books. Only MacMath remains on Generation Adidas, so they’ll have to pay for him. But assuming he won’t make DP money, they can use part or most of Kleberson’s salary to pay for him and still have some left over. Plus there are players who will be leaving (perhaps Torres), which we can also use for Zac. If we can get an impact player in the draft that’s on GA that’ll help us massively as well.

    • I believe that although they graduated last year as far as the cap counts, their initial contracts were for four years meaning they expire this year and need to be resigned.

  9. I with Earl’s fix for the midfield. I can not take the “Brian Carroll is a great player ” lie that the DO shoves down our throats. We are NOT a good team. There needs to be a youth movement from Hack. The old guys needs to go! What’s the worst that could happen? Not make the playoffs? We are in the shit now and will be until Hack or his predecessor gets some balls and takes chances on the pitch. I also think our cheap DO can spend some of the $$ they make off the $7 hotdogs and get a quality DP. Someone that is an instant threat, not a washed up, past their prime 37 year old.

  10. Ed’s answer to “was it a successful season?” is the single best argument for keeping Hackworth.
    .
    I’m struck by how much inconsistency there is in the arguments about Hackworth:
    -Nowack changed lineup too much, Hackworth not enough?
    -Team overperformed for their level of talent, yet somehow the coach gets no credit?
    -Too reactionary, but also too stubborn to change?
    .
    I agree that he deserves at least 1-2 more seasons to prove his worth. Unless we have a proven star coach waiting in the wings, there is no reason to replace Hackworth. Spend the money on the players. Despite popular belief, coaches rarely win or lose games – it’s up to the players on the field. They haven’t said a bad word about Hack all year, and that is very telling.
    .
    Cannot agree enough about FO comments. The players fought their assess off this season for the fans. It’s time the FO put in even a fraction of that sacrifice for us.

    • And what was up with the announcements pushing post game presentations? Looked very weak and unplanned
      … granted it was too light for fireworks but jeez – come on – the players were standing there, the fans were standing there— what do YOU stand for FO??

    • I cannot understand anybody that says “Hack just needs his players and his budget.” Just look at the tactics, on offense or defense. There are none.

      1. Offensive system = long ball; completely lost in attacking third
      2. Even worse: NO defensive organization whatsoever. At all. Even the worst EPL teams know that they survive on Defensive org.
      3. “He can develop young talent.” Yeah? Where? Cruz still can’t cross, Hop can’t finish , Farfan can’t shoot nor does he go searching for the ball, Mac still doesn’t use his arms, Williams still provides poor service half the time, MacMath’s positioning is terrible.
      4. His subs are terrible and predictable. Which further proves point #3.

      As a coach, it offends me that he “manages” at this level. I really can’t figure out what he does from Sunday-Sat AM.
      And in Soccer, the effect of a good coach is underrated (See Liverpool; Chelsea; Galaxy under Arena; Caleb Porter, and ManU). He needs to go…even if it’s for someone like Curtain. I know for a fact he’s a better tactician. Granted, I’d want a better coaching prospect, but I do doubt that anyone will want to work for Sak.

      • I agree with some of your points, but for me, I’d rather spend money on a few key quality players before changing coaching twice in two years.

      • I go back and forth. On one hand, his tactics – start of game and in-game, including subs – are terrible. On the other, he was dealing with Nowak’s legacy. And back and forth it goes.
        .
        In the end, I’m in agreement with spugger. Firing Haackworth just makes us TFC South.

      • I don’t think anyone says, “Hack just needs his players and his budget.” It’s more, “Give him a chance to prove what he can do when he has the same resources every other coach has.” i.e. A full salary budget to spend on players.

  11. buzzkill_ed says:

    This was a fun read. Interesting to see how different people respond to some of the questions with almost the exact same answers.

  12. I simply can’t justify Hackworth as our coach moving forward. He filled his roll as the “interim” coach after Nowak and brought stability to the team. Mission accomplished.

    Those arguing in his favor are simply dooming us to more of the same problems as this season. I fully expect the “should Hackworth be our coach?” question to be asked 12 months from now after another failed season.

    Part with him now to get the “pain” of departure out of the way. The sooner the better.

  13. Southside Johnny says:

    Another great read from the best local sport site ever for my money. I appreciate and would like to thank all the contributors and commenters for creating a wonderfully thoughtful, passionate, entertaining and respectful dialogue. Agree or disagree, it really helps to air out one’s thoughts with such a great mix of folks.

    • +1
      .
      The commenters and their comments are just as good a read as the articles. Different opinions are welcome, and nobody gets flamed for having different ideas; just conversation. I love this place!

  14. The most worrying thing I’ve read this week is the attendance numbers. Not that our Home attendance is low. It’s that our away attendance was the lowest in the league by a pretty good margin.
    We are the least Marketable team in the league…not good. But is anyone surprised when Sak is running things?
    ————
    As a side note: You guys do run a great site. Thanks for all the analysis. I’m sure it got difficult at times when you probably could have just cut-and-pasted much of the ratings/analysis from the week before.

  15. For those that don’t care for Hackworth what about someone like Eric Wynalda.

    Below is my list of core players for the Club, but I also feel that we need to have the depth in the Club to beable to field two diffrent squads on the pitch and get the same quality of play from each squad overall.

    MacMath(GK),Williams(RB),Parke(CB),Fabinho(LM),Okugo (CDM),Farfan(CAM),LeToux(RM),Casey/Wheeler(F)McInerney/Hoppenot(F)

    • Another name to consider would be Frank Yallop.
      .
      I’d actually play Farfan on the right. He always seemed the most comfortable there. Swing Le Toux over to the left, and bring in a CAM.
      .
      And I’d rather have Ray Gaddis at LB than Fabinho.
      .
      Otherwise, good list of “core” players.

  16. Does anyone know the status of Carlos Valdes? With Colombia qualifying for WC I don’t expect him back for the Union (as much as that would solve the CB problem), but this season was only a loan, correct? Would the Union, after MLS gets its cut, receive any $$ from a transfer?
    I am in the camp that if, right or wrong, you remove Kleberson, Torres and Valdes from the payroll, you have the ability to both resign your young core and get a Valeri-type priced mid fielder to lead the
    attack.
    And I join the chorus of kudos to the staff at PSP. Thank you for a great 2013 and here’s to a better 2014.

    • Speculation is that since Colombia has qualified for the WC that he will look to either secure another loan or a permanent transfer to a Colombian club, as Pekerman doesn’t care for the MLS. The U would see a cut of the transfer fee if he were transfered.

      Clearing Kleberson, Albright and possibly Torres would clear almost $550k from the salary cap. Valdes didn’t count towards this year’s salary but that is another $320k that is potentially on the books for next year. That should allow the FO to double the salary of both Macmath and Okugo and still have money for a decent size signing.

  17. I see a lot of complaints about Hack and agree with most of them, many of his decisions were head scratchers, but who is actually available to take over this team? This team doesn’t have the money to bring in a big name from Europe and there aren’t many or any Caleb Porter’s floating around So, I think for the time being we may be stuck with Hack. Unless we can convince Tab Ramos to drive down the NJ Turnpike

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