Press Conference

Transcript and video of John Hackworth’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased

Audio begins after start of press conference

…have responded well. They’re all frustrated. They all know that, each one of them, they are capable of making a play when called upon. The reality is that we haven’t had guys make that play, and they all take responsibility for that.

But I think there’s a belief within that locker room that they do have the capability to do it. And so I think the response from them, while being very frustrated and looking very deep inside themselves, and how we do things and what we do, there’s still a confidence that those guys are capable of making that final play, pulling off that final execution that we’re all looking for right now.

On the balance between waiting for things to come around and actively making changes

You’re right that there’s an absolute balance to that. But when you go on the road in this league and you play the way we played on Saturday, our balance was to try to put everything into Montreal’s end of the field and dictate the temp and the rhythm of the game. That led us to not only creating several opportunities playing on our opponents half in a road game, but it led to a lot of chances. That balance is maybe a little bit tougher for us because it meant that we weren’t going to have that many plays defensively where we had to make the play. Unfortunately, we ended up giving ‘em away to easily.

We have to find, in the end, a way to translate our positive play and take away the moments where we’ve made mistakes. That was truly the case on Saturday. We can look at every statistic there is in the game of soccer — at the end of the day, the one thing that matters is that we didn’t get the result.

Given the talent that was brought in in the offseason and the lack of results, on whether he feels his back is against the wall?

Well, I would tell you that I would take responsibility first and foremost for that. I have to be held accountable for that, no matter what. The players that are out there are doing their — they’re putting everything forward, and the way that we have tried to play this year and execute in may different facets of the game, again, has been good. Our belief is that it will change, and we will see some results start to fall our way. We feel unlucky up to this point that we are not in a much better spot. And then I think we’d be having a much different conversation. The reality is that this game can be cruel sometimes. You can absolutely dominate and not get the result you wanted, and we’ve had that so many times this year. Sure, the pressure is there but, we want to focus on the way we do things, and how we’re trying to play, and continue that because we are establishing a bit of a reputation for how we are doing things, and those are the hard parts to the game of soccer a lot of times.

So, there’s got to be a balance to it — I’ll take responsibility for that overall. The players and our staff, everyone should know that we’re doing everything possible to try to rectify that situation.

On what he saw in the changes made to the lineup against Montreal

I think lineup changes, especially with the group of players that we have right now, you’re going to see that happen more regularly. Because we have some depth, we look at our opponent and look at some maybe tactical things we can do against them.

Specifically for the changes we made against Montreal, we brought in Danny Cruz — for the first time he was healthy to start a game — and we put Fabinho on the other side. Our intent was to try to bring a little athleticism on the flanks, be able to put us in a position where we could dictate the game. Unfortunately, we gave up a goal early in that game, and that kind of throws some of those ideas out the window.

But Cruz, I thought, put in a really good 60 minutes. Fabinho I thought played well too, but probably not his natural spot, he’s a little better coming from farther back, having a lot of room to run up the left side. But, that said, I don’t think either one of those guys had a poor performance, I was happy with both of them. In particular, Danny was a bright spot. Fabinho I thought did enough that you could argue that perhaps there should have been a Montreal player that received a second yellow in that game pretty easily. Maybe two or three times.

On how he expects to use Fabinho moving forward

As I talked about previously, we have some depth and balance to us right now. Fabinho’s a guy that can play either as a left back or as a left midfielder — in reality that’s how we used him on Saturday. Sheanon and Ray Gaddis — Ray has been as solid as any one of our players on either side. So, every week it’s going to be a tactical discussion for our staff to try to figure out what the matchups are that we want to make sure we try to utilize.

On Danny Cruz

Danny is a player in this league that he absolutely brings the right energy level every single game. He doesn’t get enough credit for his soccer. There was a play we pulled off early in the Montreal game, it was a sequence where the ball goes into him, he and Vincent play a one-two, it goes back across the middle. We ended up getting a shot off that — Andrew Wenger gets a shot. Fabi from my point of view, gets fouled at the top of the box, the referee allows play on. You know, those kind of moments, Danny doesn’t get enough credit for, and he brings that ability to stretch a defense with his pace. So we have different looks that way and when you’re playing in a 4-3-3, and you can interchange sometimes your wide players, it gives you different looks.

On using Fabinho out of position on the left wing instead of Christian Maidana

I don’t think of Fabinho as a defender purely. I don’t think of him as a guy out of position. I can understand why people would look at it that way but he played last year for this club a lot as an attacking player and did quite well. His entire career until he moved to Australia was spent as an attacking left-sided player. I see him every single day, we know what he’s capable of on the attacking side of the ball. It just so happens to be that he’s a versatile enough player that he can play either one of those positions. Again, finding that right balance — that had nothing to do with the end result on Saturday.

On whether the players on the roster are quality enough to play 4-3-3 at a consistently high level

No question, I feel very confident in the group. We have a lot of different pieces — we’ve already talked about when you throw certain guys in it looks a little different, but we have some principles that we base our play on and, regardless of formation, the positives from a coaching standpoint is that you look at those principles and they’re being executed every single week. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re playing at home or on the road, it doesn’t matter the level of opponent right now.

I think it is an indication when you play a team like Montreal, who going into the year everybody had high expectations for, and they drop their line as far as they do and chose to try to defend our ball movement, our attacking ability, and play for the counter. That was clear they didn’t want to play the game at our tempo, at our rhythm. That’s a sign of respect from our opponents, we just have to be able to, again, to translate that into better results and we’re all frustrated that we’re not getting there. But you look at it and you believe that you do have the pieces there to play this way.

On whether he was  satisfied with the shots that were taken against Montreal

Yeah, it wasn’t the fact that we didn’t take our opportunities, we just didn’t execute. You know, you had Wheeler in the fifth minute on a corner kick from Fabinho, had a fantastic chance. It was the second week in a row where we had a free header that literally bounces inside the six and goes over the crossbar. As a coach I’m just shaking my head because how many times can that happen, you know? You don’t see that very often. There were other looks there in that game, our guys were certainly willing to take their opportunities in that game as evidenced by the amount of chances we had. But the reality is that we didn’t execute as well.

On how close to a finalized sense of the starting XI

This idea that there would only be eleven Union players ever being put out in the first XI to me is not the way that I look at the game. You look at any team around the world, they always have different looks, different balances that they’re going to do depending on their opponent. We have options right now. I think that it depends on our opponent, it depends on the tactics that we want to employ in a game. I would suspect that you’re going to see some more changes so, if anybody out there wants to see the same eleven week in and week out, I don’t think you’re going to see that from us.

On the amount of playing time Cristian Maidana is seeing at this point in the season

I think people have to be patient with a player that comes from a very different culture and is trying to adapt to this league. It’s a big challenge and there’s a long list of players that were extremely successful coming from other leagues around the world that have had trouble here. We just want to put Cristian in a position where he can be successful. There’s some good things that he’s doing, and there’s some parts of his game that need to improve for him to be an impact player for us. He’s a guy that we believe in and certainly we’ll see a lot more of but he has areas of his game that have to improve.

On the challenges presented by Seattle

I think we’re going up against the hottest team in the league right now. It starts with Clint and Martins up front — they’re very dynamic, they’re doing a great job — but their midfield with Alonso leading the way, and if they get Brad Evans back and healthy a hundred percent, Chad Marshall joining the backline for them has been instrumental — they’re a good team. In particular, when you play in Seattle it’s got to be arguably one of the toughest places to play. Loud, a difficult surface to play on, all of those factors make this a big challenge for us.

But, going back to my positive spin on it, you look at the way we’ve played and that kind of game sets up maybe better for us than it did last weekend. I think that they’re going to try to play, I think that there’s going to be more space in the midfield, there’ll be more space in the final third that should make for an interesting contest. Again, it’ll be a little bit of a battle to see who wins those spots on the field, but it should open up more opportunities.

On whether the focus in training this week is on correcting mistakes or preparing for Seattle

You need to do both, you need to prepare for an opponent (audio cuts out for 20 seconds) …being better in both boxes, that’s been the key thing we’re trying to stress, But, for sure, we do have some things we’re going to have to worry about playing in Seattle.

On the challenge presented by the playing surface in Seattle

I haven’t been out there this year but that’s a tough surface, it’s really — (directs question off camera) Did they replace the turf out there do you know? (Returns to original question) My question is whether they replaced that turf. Like Portland replaced the turf this year and it was a good surface, it was artificial but it was good. Traditionally, Seattle’s been a really tough, tough surface. It’s been hard, it’s kind of matted down, so you’re going to get a different bounce, a different roll — it’s a hard surface to play on. For us, because we like to keep the ball on the ground, I think that helps us a little bit but, because we don’t train on it, we’ll try to get on it a couple of times this week. It’ll be interesting and we won’t know until we actually get out on that particular surface and see. We hadn’t been there last year, obviously.

Injury update

Fred’s the guy that’s still coming back, he’s the only guy that’s questionable right now.

Thoughts on Clint Dempsey’s return to goal-scoring form

I’m happy for Clint, I hope it doesn’t happen on Saturday. But, no, it’s good. You look at whether it’s Clint, or Maurice, or whether it’s Michael Bradley, these kind of marquee national team players coming back to our league I think is really important. And for them to be really important players on their own club and continue that I think is a really good sign. So, happy for Clint, it’ll be good to see him, but again, he’s an opponent on Saturday and we’ll do everything we can to try limit his opportunities.

What are you looking for from Maidana to improve on

Cristian first and foremost has to adapt to the level of fitness of the players in this league. There’s a reason why he hasn’t gone 90, and we’re working on his fitness and have been since he arrived. That has been an issue. He’s getting much better, so you’ve got to give him a lot of credit, and our staff has invested a lot of time in not just his fitness, but his nutrition, and his sleep habits.

You know, it’s a different culture. In Argentina, I think you eat dinner somewhere between 11 o’clock to 12:30, 1 at night. His kids when he first moved here are bouncing off the walls at 12:30, 1 o’clock at night. So, all these kind of cultural habits have to be adjusted. Fitness is certainly something that we have indicated to Cristian that must improve. At the same time, his awareness, his work ethic on both sides of the ball, needs to get a little better. He has been a guy that we all recognize some of the qualities that he has but he’s got to put them together. So that whether it’s making sure that we’re not turning over balls in really dangerous spots or he’s the guy that’s going to connect that last one — in all ways that’s improving.


  1. Scary to see such generous words for Cruz and such indictments against Chaco. Cruz did have a decent game, but every dog has his day – impressive performances are too few and far between for Danny. It’s once again apparent that Hack is so blinded by his admiration for Cruz’s work ethic and attitude, that he’s willing to bench a player capable of much greater things. Match fitness comes with playing in matches, and I’m not totally buying it. A few times when he was subbed out, he had been doing quite well up to the 60th minute. What’s going on in this guy’s head?

  2. DanC(formerly of 103) says:

    First, poor, poor Chaco, he’ll be doing Danny Cruz’s laundry when Hack is through with him. Secondly, Hack goes on about how the surface is tough in Seattle because the U like to play the ball on the ground. Is he serious? I know that is what he wants them to do, and what they try to do at the beginning of the game, but 30 minutes in and it is long ball into the box time. I really just want to put him in a camel clutch until those teeth pop out!

  3. I believe I can fly says:

    Unfortunately it seems he has not read Dan’s article from the other day or did he?

    I believe keith Gabriel was feeding Hackworth questions to one by one dispute Dan’s arguments about how not to get fired.
    At one point he even jumped in overtop another report and asked a friendlier question.

    people are suggesting the same 11 go out, well that’s not going to happen

    • I notice a lot of reporters that do that. Very few are willing to press mangers or coaches about hard questions, they just set them up. I really wish reporters would press him more about specific details on what he is seeing instead of the pre-fabricated answers he’s feeding them. His answers are longer than most coaches because he speaks in full sentences, but rarely do those sentences mention specific details or give rational ideas about what to improve or what happened.

  4. The Chopper says:

    Cruz became a whipping boy last year partly because he was kind of the poster child for a lack of overall soccer skill that permeated through much of the roster. The Union played highly unattractive soccer and Cruz was seen by many as the chief culprit of that style of play.

    However, it just may be that now that there are a number of skilled players on the pitch, that the other things Cruz brings to the table may make him very effective for the club in the right circumstances. It’s time to leave last year behind and give the Cruz whipping a rest. So far in the roles he has been used this year, he has handled himself positively.

    • jwlockerbie says:

      Cruz got beat so he literally threw himself on the ball and tried to cry foul and lucky for him the dumb ref bought it

  5. So with our lineups changing every week, What happens to the “The team just needs time to gel.” argument?

    • The Chopper says:

      And last year everyone complained because the lineup never changed.

      • HA! I knew someone would say that when I typed this. I think there is a difference between stubbornly plodding along with the same line up at game 25 and randomly throwing players at the wall and seeing what sticks at game 8.

      • +1 We have the players now where we can have a strong starting 11, of course there will be changes from time to time with subs and injury or even just bad play but this team does need to gel with certain players on the field. My one suggestion is to get Carroll out of the picture and play a 4-4-2.

      • The back 4 should be the same every week, and that should be Williams-Okugo-Berry-Gaddis. If Berry is healthy he should be playing, and he should continue to play unless he gets injured. Wheeler has been ok, but Berry is better, and he needs time to get out there and get his fitness and rhythm back.

  6. Fire Crapworth!

  7. If points were given for dominating the number of entries into the final 3rd then the Union have no other issues. If we are talking about the truth, than Montreal were more dangerous on their few counters than the Union were over the course of the 90 minute. If this was the only game in which dominating and not getting the desired result were the case, then OK. However this Coach and team have made passing the ball around and accomplishing nothing habitual!
    Danny Cruz can pinball around all he wants, rarely does it result in goals. If the Union ever have a 2 goal lead then Cruz can come in late to run at tired defenses. Other than that he’s a nice guy but what’s the point? Things are obviously desperate. It’s the only reason for dwelling on the number of entries and Cruz’s effect( or lack there of) rather than on the final result.

  8. Start Berry. That’s all I want to see. Just. start. Berry.

  9. I can’t believe the drivel that comes out of his mouth! Is Hackworth putting Maidana’s kids to bed at night! WTF! Is Maidana up all night eating! Don’t they stay in a hotel before a game? I have a hard time believing he can’t play a full 90 this far into the season. Also this crap of how difficult it is to play in MLS has got to stop. Well I guess from the U-18 team it’s different coach!

  10. I would hope Hackworth isn’t turning Maidana into this year’s Kleberson.

    Maidana and Nogueria could be one of the most dynamic pairs in the league. If it is allowed to develop. Sitting him on the bench and starting Cruz makes no sense.

    No matter how late he stays up.

  11. Maidana will soon fall to Kleberson level and then finally Torres level, then he will be gone

  12. Sean Doyle says:

    This is not an indictment against Chaco, but his situation is not surprising. Two things….
    First, for those that have read Soccernomics (if you haven’t, you should), there is a great chapter on how players from foreign countries often underperform on the pitch because they struggle to assimilate into their new environment. Whether it’s a language barrier, struggles getting a family settled and/or cultural differences, these outside factors can weigh on a player and adversely effect performance.
    Some top European clubs have player liasons that specifically deal with helping the player and his family settle into their new homes. I’m not calling for the Union to put someone on payroll to do this, but as South America has become a viable place to find very good players, this may be a good investment to make in the near future. In past conversations, I know some in the Union community do reach out and assist our players in their transition to life in Philadelphia. Those people should be commended for what they do.
    As to the nutrition comment, I interviewed Leo Fernandes for Reading United twice before June 1st of last year. The first time, we chatted in Florida during Spring Training. Then in late April, we talked again ahead of the Union-United friendly. I was amazed at the muscle he had packed on in just a few weeks. Brendan Burke said that they got Leo and the other rookies with Kevin Miller and had put them all on a fitness and nutrition regiment. Burke said they (the Union) had to get these kids to stop eating like college students.
    Knowing a professional athlete is a finely tuned machine, feeding them the proper fuel is critical to their performance on the field. Perhaps the club Chaco came from did not place an important emphasis on nutrition and he may have developed bad eating habits. Now the Union have to re-teach him good nutritional habits, which goes back to my first point.

  13. Maidana: coach what do I have to do to start ?
    Hack: Don’t eat at midnight, put your kids to sleep at 8, run like crazy all over the field, flop a lot.
    Maidana: do I need any soccer skills ?
    Hack: no, just don’t eat too much and you will be ok.
    Maidana: maybe I can play CB some day.
    Hack: that is good idea Chaco.

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