Fact or Crap: Philadelphia Union edition

Photo: Courtesy of Shayna Gosney/Prost Amerika

There’s a board game out there called “Fact or Crap,” where the premise is pretty simple: Someone reads off a statement, and you have to guess whether it’s true or false.

Example: “In Game of Thrones, Ned Stark is played by the actor Sean Penn.” 

False. Sean Bean plays Ned Stark. I’d put down a card that says “crap” and receive points for being correct.

Now, I’ve never actually played the game, but for some reason I thought it would be a good premise for a soccer story.

Fact or Crap? – John Hackworth’s job is in jeopardy

I think you have to call this a fact.

It’s true the team is just six points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. They’re three points out of a playoff spot, with a chance to catch D.C. United this weekend. In the bigger picture, the turnaround doesn’t look entirely daunting, especially considering that the East is once again weaker than the West.

But the club is tied for first place in total games played (10) and has the fourth worst points per game (.80) in the entire league. That says it all right there.

Toronto FC has nine points through seven games (1.29 PPG), and Los Angeles has eight points through six games (1.33 PPG). Seattle’s points per game total of 2.11 is twice Philadelphia’s, and they’ve played one fewer game.

We read a lot about Caleb Porter and Frank Yallop allegedly being on the hot seat because of similar struggles. Portland is 1-3-5, and Chicago is 0-2-6. But Yallop has won trophies in this league, and Porter lead the Timbers to a playoff appearance and a total turnaround in 2013. Hackworth doesn’t have something like that to fall back on, and that’s the key issue in this argument.

Plus, when you consider the unpredictable nature of Nick Sakiewicz, anything can happen at any time. No one expected the Union to win in Seattle, but there are a pair of winnable home games coming up that might be a deal breaker, depending on the result.

Fact or Crap? Cristian Maidana is out of shape


These are the two Hack quotes that got people bent out of shape last week:

  1. “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’ve been working on his fitness since he arrived. That has been an issue.”
  2. “It’s a different culture. In Argentina, I think you eat dinner some time between 11:30 and 12:30, 1 [in the morning]. His kids, when they first moved here were bouncing off the walls at 12:30 and 1 [in the morning]. All of these cultural habits have to be adjusted.”

There’s probably some truth to what Hack is saying about the cultural differences between Argentina and the United States, and there’s always an adjustment period for foreign players coming into the league. But I’m not sure how a guy plays 87 minutes and 80 minutes in the first two games and then, all of a sudden, his fitness level isn’t good enough. He did suffer that minor injury and missed time in April, so we obviously don’t know what was going on behind the scenes with that situation. Maybe the injury was a result of his fitness level.

But none of that even matters because he NEEDS to be on the field. Maidana is one of the few creative and skilled guys out there. Believe it or not, he leads the team with two assists, and he deserves another assist on the Seattle own-goal because the delivery was excellent. Maidana also is co-leader with five shots on goal (3 against Portland) and looked much better in the less restricted role he was given at CenturyLink Field.

Maidana simply appears to have slower foot speed than other players. Did you see that great move he pulled on DeAndre Yedlin? He gave himself space on the left with the flick and first touch but didn’t really have the pace to make something out of the play. He’s very good on the ball, but he’s not the fastest guy out there.

Still, most creative players aren’t known to be fast and physical. Guillermo Barros-Schelotto, Diego Valeri, and Federico Higuain aren’t/weren’t speed burners, and they’ve done quite alright in MLS.

Fact or Crap? The Antoine Hoppenot sub is not working


It’s been awhile since Antoine has influenced a game.

antoine copy

Antoine Hoppenot is credited with just one shot in 2014.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 2012: 4 goals, 1 assist, 817 total minutes
  • 2013: 3 goals (one from an accidental cross), 2 assists, 723 total minutes
  • 2014: 0 goals, 0 assists, 97 total minutes

Antoine has no shots on goal this season. He’s averaging just 10.7 minutes per game, which is much less than what he got in 2012 and 2013. His last goal was against Vancouver 20 matches ago, when the Union were playing with a man advantage for the better part of 80 minutes.

Hoppenot has earned a reputation as a diver, which I don’t think is completely warranted. Recent performances (Seattle) have seen some pretty obvious dives, but he is not getting the benefit of some fringe fouls that really could be called outside of the penalty area. The Union didn’t earn a single PK in 2013, and Antoine probably deserved a call or two during the course of the season. It’s always harder for faster and smaller players to stay balanced in physical challenges, but he’ll have to try to stay up more to get referees to start blowing the whistle.

Fact or Crap? Aaron Wheeler is to blame for Seattle’s game winner


Yes, Wheeler was marking Chad Marshall on the play, but Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu were in position to get to the ball first and they didn’t do it. If anything, the blame can be shared between the three.


Seattle’s Equalizing Goal

As for the first goal, maybe Wheeler takes a bit more of the blame. After the initial clearance, he decided not to challenge Brad Evans for the second ball. The rest of the defense was ball-watching and slow to react, and Obafemi Martins got behind to score.

Really, it was a poor collective effort on that first goal. Kasey Keller, now a color commentator for Seattle, called the play “a little bit of a comedy of errors.”

Fact or Crap? Zac MacMath has been the best Union player this season

I’ll say … fact.

Really though, MacMath and Vincent Nogueira are probably 1a. and 1b. in this category.

Three penalty saves for MacMath this season is a phenomenal stat. He’s pulled this off in just ten games, and no other goalkeeper is even close. If he saves another, he will tie the league record for penalty saves in a season.

As for Nogueira, he’s easily been the best field player. If there was a consistent striker up top, his numbers would look better, and he’d be an easy choice for the All-Star Game. Knowing how things work, though, we’ll probably see Brad Davis or Will Johnson in there again, even though Nogueira has been a best-XI quality player every single week.


  1. I am almost 100% in agreement except I place Nogueira as the clear #1 so far. The Union have adopted Hackworth’s personality or lack thereof. We need a manager who can light a fire under these players. Perhaps someone in the from office can talk to Republic of Ireland’s assistant coach Roy Keane when his team plays here on June 6 about staying in Philly

    • I disagree Macmath is #1. without his direct intervention we would have at least 4 points less in the standings. He is the clear choice in my mind.

    • I definitely see what you mean about lighting a fire, but Roy Keane is a crazy person you do not want managing your team. Maybe as a “bad cop” assistant. Maybe.

    • Matt From 138 says:

      That’s the first time I’ve seen someone else suggest Keano as a Union manager. I’ve done it a few times but usually at least half jokingly. I’ve always had the feeling that he’d be somewhat Nowakish.

  2. The Realist Brian says:

    Wheeler sucks, Kevin. He is a project at best, and he should be learning in the USL, not against MLS forwards. He has already cost us points in games with his poor positioning and lackoif stepping up on a man. His distribution is piss poor (I stopped counting after 5 balls played out/to opposing players in the first 15 minutes). You may not fault him on the second goal, and that is debatable. He doesn’t fight through picks/players to stay with his man, and that is his lack of aggression (not his fault, he is a forward). The first goal, though, was his fault as he popped his header up, and then tried to feint the next header to make the guy flinch? Seriously? He needed to win that header, and at 6’4″ any coach would have been all over his ass for not challenging. Too many mistakes, and it is costing the team points.

    • I think the ball watching from Maurice Edu on the first goal was just as bad as Wheeler’s feint.

      If you watch the replay, you’ll see Martins slide right behind Edu, and even then he doesn’t react, it’s Amobi trying to get back to make a play.

      Anyway, Aaron was put in a really tough spot by the coaching staff. It’s one thing to move a midfielder to center back, or a fullback to center back, but striker to CB is something else. Add the fact that Wheels played less than 150 minutes total last year, and you don’t even know if he has enough experience at FW, let alone at defender.

      • In Edu’s defense he was marking Clint Dempsey merely 2 seconds before- and Dempsey is positioned just off his shoulder. Edu could have helped but the simple fact is he should not have had to help. the play needs to be made by Wheeler.
        Over and over we continue to debate and talk about Aaron Wheeler as CB and his fault and how other players should have helped but as I see it it is his job to handle these ‘simple’ tasks/decisions and he is just not good enough. Period. Aaron Wheeler is just not good enough at center back.

      • John Ling says:

        See, for me there is no debate. A “lost” year like 2012? Sure, training by fire, learn as you go, let the new CB take his lumps is fine – at least, it’s fine if you think he comes out the other end as a valuable asset for your organization.
        But 2014 wasn’t supposed to be a lost year. It was actually supposed to be very much the opposite. We had visions of playoffs; we had reasonable visions of being a top-3 in the East team. We even had some visions of winning the East or even the Supporter’s Shield. And in that environment you can’t have a trial by fire for somebody learning a new position, especially one as valuable as CB. And it’s made even more egregious by the fact that stuff like this is really one of the main reasons to be affiliated with HCI.
        I don’t have any animosity toward Wheeler. I have no doubt in my mind he’s doing the best he can under difficult circumstances. He’s done a fair few things well, even, and had his moments. This problem lies at the feet of the coaching staff. Plain and simple.

      • nail on head

  3. The Black Hand says:

    How can you not love a piece titled: “Fact or Crap”?
    Agree with all points.

  4. Fact whether it not that second goal was Wheeler’s fault, he looks awkward and mistake prone at all times

    Fact Austin Beery is a Rookie of the Year CB who is riding the bench because of one bad game.

    Fact Hacks favoritism to players (Cruz last year, Hoppenot always, and Wheeler this year) make me have awful, violent feelings towards the man and make me think “maybe Nowak wasn’t so bad”

    • The Chopper says:

      The Wheeler situation mystifies all of us. But there is one thing I wonder about. Why did Frank Yallop (a man who knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a quality defender in this league) bring in more expensive defenders and decide to part ways with a lower salaried, rookie of the year who on paper is exactly the kind go guy you want on your roster? What is it, we don’t know about Audtin Berry?

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        What we don’t know about Berry is basically… what we have? Can he play? Was his ROY a fluke? Hack doesn’t play the guy, instead playing a project who is hurting the team.
        I don’t think we can speculate about why Chicago got rid of him until we see him play.

      • The Chopper says:

        I agree. But at the same time, for all the criticisms of Hack (many valid), I believe Wheeler is playing because Hackworth thinks his defense is better with him out there.

        It’s not about playing favorites as some suggest. Hackworth traded assets for Berry. To not play him in favor of a converted forward makes himself look bad as a personnel guy. So there has to be a reason. He may have determined that Berry can’t play.

      • After a preseason with a new team and what 2 games he decides Berry can’t play?
        yet after what 5 games of watching Wheeler as CB, he decides this guy can play?
        i am the king of chester- master of all i survey.

      • Scottymac says:

        Actually, I think he plays Wheeler because of smugness. It’s not straight CB play he’s considering, but in his mind he thinks he’s got some tactical advantage with Wheelers height and an ability to push him forward for a headed goal. He values that flexibility more than CB skill. It has to be that reason, because Berry played well before his injury and Hack admittedly rushing him back. If Berry’s healthy, he should play. If he’s not, he shouldn’t be in the 18. Hacks tinkering is intrusive and not working. Keep it simple and we probably grab a point in SEA.

  5. I agree with Brian..Wheeler gives the ball away constantly. And just because you are tall doesn’t make you a center back. If it did he wouldn’t be getting beat to head balls by guys 4 inches shorter than him.

    • No kidding. As I wrote in a blast on a different post, you actually pump faked a header to fake out a striker you are 5 inches taller than?

  6. I do not think this team will fire their coach midseason but I could be wrong.
    ZacMac has been money.

    • Matt From 138 says:

      Short of our season looking like it will turn out like DC’s last year I doubt they’ll let him go before the winter.

  7. Fact…this team is playing like crap

  8. Can we extend the table for Hoppenot two more columns? DPM (Dives Per Minute) might not lead the league, but seems to lead the team by a wide margin. And the related WPM (Whines Per Minute) about the non-calls on the DPM is certainly at the top of the heap. I like the speed, I like his ability to challenge the tired defenders late in the game (and I see that from the perspective of a one time defender who was ALWAYS gassed.) I cannot stand the negativity that he is starting to bring as his main tool onto the field. Antoine, play the game and you can be the man.

    • Just wait til Cruz gets back on the field. There will be some real competition for the whines per minute stat.

  9. Paul Lankford says:

    Yeah, I would be surprised to see Hackworth fired. Nick Sakiewicz gave him the vote of approval last week, and Nick will want to give him time. Although, I would not be surprised if Hackworth is fired at the end of the season after the U miss the playoffs.

    • It’s called the dreaded vote of confidence for a reason.

      • Totally. Often what it really means is “I’ve got your back, for now, but the fact that I even have to address this in the media means your ass is on the hot seat”
        Two of our next three games are very winnable home contests. I think Sak really wants Hackworth to do well and doesn’t want to have to fire him, but I think anything less than 4 points from the next three games would make Hackworth’s situation pretty close to untenable…in my mind at least. All that really matters is what Sak thinks though.

      • Well, yeah, because then Sak would have to get out and actually DO something, like a bona fide coaching search.
        Or just give the job to Vart of Sorber.

  10. Here’s another one. Fact or crap: Hackworth ‘plays favorites’ with his lineup choices. Personally, I think it’s crap, but he does seem to have a doghouse. I suspect I’m in the minority on that one.

    • I dunno if he has a “doghouse” per se, but he does seem to expect a certain level of effort and/or conditioning, real or imagined, from his players that if they don’t reach, find themselves on the bench (Kleberson), subbed out in the 60th minute every game (Maidana, unfortunately), or shipped out (Adu, ironically for Kleberson). It occurs to me that maybe I’ve just described a doghouse…

  11. Im under the speculation that Hack will stay for most, if not all of the season. I don’t know why, but I feel like there is some excuse like “If we had that world class striker here, we would be winning games.” that hack keeps pushing on Sak.

    If DC was to win in our stadium this weekend. I would have his name removed before the third blast of the whistle.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      If they outright lose this weekend, he has to go immediately if the Union think they can save this season. Period.

  12. Wheelz shouldn’t be on the field…he’s been attrocious…hacks fault for putting him in a position to fail…let him learn the CB at Harrisburg if that’s your plan Hack…if Berry is that bad in hacks opionion, why not williams at CB over wheelz? Berry has the experience but needs time to gel with Amobi and his new teammates…Hack isn’t giving him the chance…i don’t get it

  13. Boycott the team until they fire Crapworth!!

    Bring in a coach who will attempt to play defensive center backs at, you know, center back instead of forwards or miscast holding midfielders.

    Sadly, I hope the Union lose their next few games, just so the team has no other choice but to replace the coach.

  14. I generally avoid hackworth’s press conferences and any related coverage…The direct quotes from this one reaffirm that inclination. Didn’t know there was a touch of ethnocentrism to go along with his general inability to make quality substitutions. Pretty embarrassing comments.

    I think he has to go to get players in the correct positions.

  15. philpill says:

    Fact: Sam backs Hack unless season turns to crap – miss the playoffs.

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