Press Conference

Transcript and video of John Hackworth’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased

On how much pressure he feels to get the team back on the right track

I think there’s always pressure. In particular, you have this string of results that we’ve had and it builds, there’s no getting around that. But, at the same time, when you have a team that you believe in and you think is capable of scoring goals, and you look at some of the stats of how many chances we’re creating, it gives me some hope that we’re going to get out of this. And once we do, I think there’s a string of good performances and a lot more goals that will follow.

Is it frustrating for watching Zac MacMath do everything he can to keep the team in games and results not follow?

No, I mean, we just need to build off of performances like Zac’s. He kept us in a game, a really high level game on Saturday night, with an excellent save, and he’s had a very good year. We need other guys to feed off him and have those same kind of performances so that collectively as a team we are more consistent and we’re playing from the first whistle to the last whistle.

Have you ever been involved with a team before where a keeper has made three PK saves?

Not in this amount of time, this is pretty short. And you add on the fact that he saved a couple in preseason in a shoot out in the Disney showcase. So, he’s in good right with those, But, (joking) whoever published that article that said he’s gonna set a record just totally jinxed him by the way — it’s all right.

No, it’s funny, I’ve known Zac a long time and I’ve seen him take a lot of PKs and this has not been his strong suit as a goalkeeper, but the good thing is that you kind of see Zac evolving. I mean, his game has improved in so many little ways that I think it was natural that with his ability to read and his decision making that he was going to figure that out. I know there’s talk from the Seattle camp that it was interesting that Alonso took it but I don’t care who takes that PK, that’s a well taken PK. For a keeper to save that with that kind of pace and that kind of placement, that was pretty impressive.

On facing Eddie Johnson on Saturday

You look at DC’s front four and Eddie, while he has not gotten on the score sheet yet, he is a major influence on that team and them having a successful early part to the season. So, we know that for the second consecutive week in a row that we’re going to face a pair of forwards in Fabian Espindola and Eddie that are in really good form. They’re combining well so it’s going to be a tough task for us, but I think that we’re up to the challenge. Hopefully, we can do as well a job containing them as we did Dempsey and Martins, for the most part.

On keeping the team calm and focused as the pressure to win grows

You just got to try to not even let the fact that there’s this idea of pressure get into your head, you just got to make sure that you trust the process that you’ve gone through and your preparation is consistent and the same. We’re not as a staff and, in particular, as a team, we’re not going to do anything drastically different. We feel good about the way that we’ve performed, we feel like we’ve been prepared for every game that we’ve played in this year. It’s just a matter of us really putting together a complete performance and eliminating a few mistakes here and there, and having a little tougher resolve than we’ve had so far this season. If that happens, then that’s what we can control and that’s all that we can really do.

On the pressure on the forwards

I don’t want to put that pressure on the forwards, specifically, I think it’s our entire team. We look at a lot of the positions that we’ve got in, game in and game out, and it can be something that the service wasn’t to the right foot, it can be that a guy didn’t execute when he had a chance. And there’s a lot of guys that have had those opportunities. We talked about it last week that, eventually, guys got to finish their chances. But, for the most part playing in Seattle, getting the number of opportunities that we got, getting a good goal off of a restart, you know, those are all positives. Would we have loved to have, and we felt like we should have, scored a second one late in the first half — it would have changed that game dramatically. But it’s not just the forwards, I think our midfielders, and our backs making overlapping runs and their service in the box — all those things come together.

On the possibility of summer signings

Sure, I think that we — in a short answer, yes. But I think in the big picture, we have a group of guys that are capable of playing at this level and being very successful at this level. So, we aren’t thinking that we have to hit the panic button and do something drastic like bring in somebody else. We need to get these guys going , we need to play better overall in both boxes, that’s got to be key for us no matter what.

Anytime that you have the kind of results that we’ve had you can look at both ends of the field and think, “Hey, you know it would be great if I had the best central defender in the world, it would be great if I had a forward.” But at the same time, we have to realize who we are, and what we are, and the kind of league we’re in, so there’s only so many things you can do. Right now, while we have scouts that are looking all over the world, and we’ll never not do that, at the same time we have to be focused on the guys in that room right now, in particular in the windows that we have opportunities to bring those kind of players in.

On Maurice Edu’s chances of being called up for the World Cup team

That’s not really a question for me to answer, I would give you my opinion though. I think if there are soccer people out there, in particular Jurgen and his staff, I think they’re pleased with the way Mo is playing, I think they’re pleased with the way we are playing, cause it bodes well for a player that comes from this level and goes into the national team that the skill sets they’re bringing are important. And so, in that regard, I can’t answer the question but I think that there’s a very positive feeling about what Mo has done so far in this year and what he’s capable of doing potentially for the national team.

Have you had conversations with Jurgen Klinsmann?

Yeah, a few, and those have been positive conversations. I haven’t spoken to Jurgen recently, he’s got a big job in front of him. You know, I was on that staff four years ago and there’s a lot of work and preparation that goes into it, so, at this point, he and his staff are coming down to the end and have some difficult choices to make.

Given your experience with the national team, what kind of advice can you give to someone like Maurice Edu?

Sure, Mike Sorber and I were with him last year in this time so, the three of us have had those conversations. But, I think nothing for us has changed from the fact that Mo knew that he was going to get an opportunity here and that if he played well with his club that he would perhaps get a callup for the national team and a shot to go to another World Cup. And that’s been pretty consistent.

On the team’s injury status

Fortunately, we’re pretty good right now. Danny Cruz took a knock to his foot last week, but he’s back in training. So, right now, Fred is back in training full, so we’re pretty healthy.

Cruz was out before with a heel injury…?

Yeah, totally different.

On what Edu has brought to the team

Look, you bring a guy like Mo in and his presence on the field, his experience, the skill sets that he brings — he’s been very good for us as a box-to-box midfielder, he’s filled in as a defensive midfielder, we put him in a different position against Seattle and he did very well kind of on the left side of the field, and having that type of player within our team I think has been a positive for us. We just have to be able to translate all of those positives into results.

On playing a rival like DC United that is coming off of a loss

I know Ben Olsen and his staff very well and there’s no doubt that they’re going to come in here and be very motivated. They’re off to a good start, they’re coming now to a rival, and they’re feeling like they should have gotten more points out of the Portland game — gave up a late goal to lose the points there. That’s a bad taste in a coach’s mouth, and in players’, so I know he’ll have his team well prepared and it’ll be a very tough match. Their style of play is similar, they like to move the ball well — I’ve already mentioned the mobility of their front four, it’s tough to deal with. But, that’s what most games in MLS — we’re a tight league and the parity I think you see this year even more so than in years past. I know it’s not going to be an easy task but, again, we’re confident, and we’re playing at home — I think it’s going to be close to a sell-out if it hasn’t sold out already — we feel like we’re due for that kind of performance, and we feel like we owe our fans that kind of performance, as well.

On how the team’s current situation and the upcoming stretch of three games in eight days affect lineup and substitution decisions

You always have to consider all of those scenarios: how many games you’re playing, whether you think an individual matchup is right for a certain game, if you’re going to deploy different tactics in any match, and this stretch is going to test that, for sure. But, we’ve already gone through it once this year and had good performances for the most part, so we’ve had a little bit of practice already. We’re really just concentrated on DC at this point because that’s all we can do right now and we know how important that game is for all of us.

On whether possibly keeping Edu with the club for the games against Kansas City and New England if he is called up for the national team pre-World Cup camp

That’s a good question. I think that I want to give Maurice the best chance to make the World Cup team and, at the same time, our staff and our team has prepared that we’re going to lose him at some point. So, it’s a little bit of a balance because we have that midweek game — I believe that’s on the 13th or the 14th; the 14th. I’m sure that’s something that, if that call comes I can have a conversation with Jurgen and work something out that is good for both parties.

On Austin Berry: Is he fully fit, how’s he looking in practice?

Austin looks good and he is, I think fully fit right now. That’s been a little bit of an issue, not a big one in recent weeks, I think more the performance of Aaron Wheeler was keeping him out of the lineup. But, Austin’s back and having a really good week so far, which has been a good sign.

On what Berry needs to do to start

I don’t think there’s anything that Austin has to do except be ready and prepared for his opportunity when his name gets called. We have good competition, I’ve mentioned that before. Clearly, no matter what, when you give up two goals, there’s always situations where you’re going to look at and you think you might make some changes, and we’re certainly considering that for this weekend. Austin gives us a really good choice if we choose to do that.

On how Aaron Wheeler has been adapting to playing centerback

I think he’s done very well, and yet, without sugar coating anything, he’s had some moments and some plays that he hasn’t made and have been difficult. That being said, you look at his body of work and it’s impressive that he’s been able to make the transition from a forward to a centerback and play at the level that he has. He made some really good plays on Saturday night against Seattle, and he had a couple that we all wish and — he and I have already talked about a couple that he wishes he had back. But those are really great learning experiences for a guy like Aaron who has so much potential. He’s clearly going to be an important piece to our team going forward and, while there has to be some growing pains that are at least understood by our staff, so far, he’s played well in those moments.

If Edu is called up, who are the players you expect to step into his position? Could Zach Pfeffer be one?

Direct answer to your question, yeah, Pfeffer is certainly a guy that is a possibility. But I think Pfeffer has to, just speaking about him, he has to put himself in a position to be consistently brought into the 18, number one, and then be considered to have his name listed in the XI or be one of the three substitutions that we bring off the bench. I think with a guy like Pfeffer, we all need to be aware of the level and age that he’s at, and what our team is facing right now. But, I’ve been pleased with Zach and how he’s approached every part of our season so far, I see a lot of good things out of Zach. I hope that translates to him playing some valuable minutes for this team this season.


  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    God… with the Berry/Wheeler stuff. This guy has drank his own Kool-Aid

  2. sieve!!! says:

    Just more material for my sitcom “That’s so Hackworth.”

  3. “I think more the performance of Aaron Wheeler is keeping him out of the lineup.” Dreck Dreck and more Dreck. I am stupefied. How anyone can read or hear this and still lobby for John Hackworth to coach this team is beyond the pale. I am really really disappointed with what has happened to this team. Dysfunction. Disorder. Disillusion.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I think that he tipped his hand and Berry is going back in. Wheeler is raw and made some goonish mistakes but played admirably, given the circumstances. That said, his form/confidence have taken a major hit and I think that Hackworth sees that. I fully expect to see a Berry/Okugo pairing…maybe not fully…Man, I hope to see Berry and Okugo.
      My question is; will he run the Daimond again, with Carroll at it’s base? (Of course) Will Carroll be able to step his game up and provide two-way play? (Outlook not so good) That area of linkage has been lacking and it prevents any real cohesion from developing throughout the midfield. Everything has been so rushed and chaotic looking. If we are to be a ‘possession based’ club, whoever is at the 6 needs to be involved in building the play. This issue has been a consistent thorn in Hackworth’s side and has to be addressed. I don’t care who it is, (I’m lying, I would badly like to see Amobi as our CDM. Let the CB’s sort it out. Okugo could be so much for this club!!), as long as they start doing the job. If Hackworth can solve this, then I would throw the tarp back over the guillotine…for a bit…

      • kingkowboys says:

        I hope he runs the diamond again. Maidana needs the freedom to be an influence for this team. Edu and Nog are solid for either side. Both should help Carroll with finding open space for outlets. We have the backs to maintain width as well so this formation works well with our personnel. The only problems are selecting strikers and center backs (CBs should be a non issue though).

      • Listen to the latest KYW podcast. Eli and the guys break it down. Some of it is just common sense, which makes the Unions performance even more annoying.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I’m confident that we will see the 4-4-2, with a Diamond mid. My concern is that Carroll will not be able to provide intelligent distribution, yet Hackworth will send him automatically send him out. If he is SO set on Carroll, he must do a better job of adjusting for Carroll’s inadequacies. Anyone can pick a formation. It’s getting the right guys with the positional skill sets that separates the good managers from the bad.
        CB should be a no-brainer, after Wheeler’s showing in Seattle. He wasn’t as bad as many say, but he did show that we need an experienced CB. Should be Berry.
        Up top, I think that they will perform better, with more composed play developing behind them. We need to move away from the “wing-and-prayer” service from the far flanks. It’s too erratic and relies more on luck than skill. If are midfield spreads the field and plays smart on the ball, our strikers will be able to work with it. I think that 2, up top, is the way to go. Wenger and LeToux (playing smarter)/Fernandes would give us a decent front.

      • I agree that he seems to set the table for Berry to start. Please let it be so! It’s time to put our best 11 out there and see if we’re good enough or not.

      • The Black Hand says:


  4. This man does not belong in MLS as a manager. No wonder his team performs so poorly. They play the way he talks. Wheeler has no business playing CB let alone starting. This is a joke and we are the butt of it. As long as the Union organization has John Hackworth at the helm they are going to be mediocre and 3rd rate. That presser seemed so disgustingly orchestrated. Nowak then Hackworth. Something stinks at PPL Park and not just on the pitch!!

  5. “We feel good about the way that we’ve performed,”


  6. I was hoping that some daring young reporter would have asked him nicely how he might go about addressing the actions of certain individual players on his team (who shall remain unnamed) who may have earned a reputation as divers among referees. Oh well…

  7. I would really like to know Hackworth’s thoughts on developing players at Harrisburg vs on the first team XI. The Wheeler experiment should have happened on City Island.

  8. Hackworth is a master at dragging out answers to make people forget the question. By the time he finishes talking the reporters are so enamored with his word count that they don’t even realize he never actually provides coherent, specific details regarding their question.
    For example:
    “It’s just a matter of us fixing a few mistakes here and there.”
    Follow up: “Can you be specific? What needs to change to get back on the right track? How do you fix those mistakes that keep happening each week?”

    • I think the issue is that the reporters sent to cover these press conferences just don’t give a shit about soccer or the Union so they don’t bother asking follow up or tough questions. Also, most of these questions probably just come from Kerith Gabriel who is now directly in the Unions pocket. It is a shame that PSP isn’t a full time gig for the writers here who could go call Hack on the B.S.

    • Yes and particularly with Kerith Gabriel running interference. Well if things keep going the way they are, it’ll be at the home games where Hackworth will found out what “Philly Tough” means–From the fans and supporters! Hackworth needs to go. Proof that miracles do happen, Flyers Paul Holmgren was booted upstairs and Hextall is the GM. At this point I’m not even sure Hackworth would be worth keeping with the Union in any capacity. This is a total dog and pony show.

      • John Ling says:

        This is something that’s sort of been stuck in my proverbial craw for a little while now. But since you opened the door for it…
        Kerith Gabriel should be banned from asking questions at the press conference. He’s a team mouthpiece, and he has essentially unfettered access to the coach and players if there’s something he desperately needs to know. If Gabriel is going to ask questions in the press conference, they may as well also have the assistant coaches ask questions.
        KG was a decent reporter with the Daily News. And I certainly don’t fault him for hoppnig over to work for the Union. (Although: note to Union types who may read this; KG needs an editor, badly. [Yes, I hate being the guy that says that. I’ll wallow in self-loathing all day now.]) But once he “switched teams” he lost the title of “journalist” and to continue to treat him as such is utterly ridiculous. In my opinion, of course.

      • John, I couldn’t agree more. Listening to Hackworth is bad enough on it’s own. Gabriel lends nothing to the conference and it comes off looking staged. He’s more spin and propaganda than journalist. IMO.

      • John Ling says:

        Yep. And that’s fine. KG is a Union employee who is paid to take advantage of his writing talents to produce material for the team’s website. Spin and propaganda are fine from that sort of person – it’s not really any different than, say, Dave Spadaro for the Eagles. Presumably Kerith likes his job and believes he’s fairly compensated, so it’s all good. He’s using his talents to do something he likes at a company he believes values him. Beautiful. Carry on, good sir, you’re doing life right.
        But please, Kerith. I’m begging you. Stop pretending you’re still a journalist. You’re not. You shouldn’t be permitted to ask questions at the presser – especially when your questions seem to override those of others (something I recall from a press conference summary a week or two ago).

      • Dan Walsh says:

        That’s part of how the Union run these news conferences for some reason, with in-house contributors taking part. Yeah, it can be a bit unusual, but really, Kerith is not going out there asking BS fluff questions. He may not have the same editorial independence he had at the Daily News, but he approaches the role in a credible fashion. At PSP, we generally view Kerith, Zeitlin and Kinkead as legit.

    • i hate to burst your bubble here but nothing like this is ever going to happen and it isn’t because the reporters are corrupt or inept. first of all, we need to put to bed the notion that a coach is going to say anything other than totally diplomatic pablum. a reporter will never get the coach to admit the incompetency of himself or his team unless it is a conscious decision to create a narrative of ‘oh we made this one mistake we will fix it’. it doesn’t matter how aggressive the questioning is. they don’t answer to the media or the public, the coach answers only to the team’s owners. it’s not like he is an elected official or public servant. if they consider a reporter to be rude or abrasive they will just cut off their access; it has happened before. i’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, i am just saying this is how it is. we can demand transparency and honesty all we want but it won’t happen unless the owners decide to do it out of the goodness of their hearts or maybe if the team ends up being bought by the public or something

      • Kyle it is called media pressure. It really does work wonders. The issue is that there aren’t any members of the media applying that pressure.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Ok. Here’s a response to some of these comments (Brian, Jason, LCBline, etc.).

      Follow-up questions are good. Sometimes I ask them during these news conferences. Sometimes I don’t. Maybe I’ll ask them quietly behind the scenes. Maybe I won’t ask them at all because I already know the answer before I even ask the question. And maybe the others taking part in these news conferences feel the same.

      My experience with news conferences comes from newspapers. If there were a lot of reporters present, I would usually remain quiet and ask my questions directly to the individual AFTER the news conference. I didn’t see a point in giving away to the competition what I was interested in. They could read it in the next day’s paper. I still do that sometimes.

      I generally call in by telepone to these conferences. I use a lunch break. It’s not the best arrangement. In person or a one-to-one phone call, you’re more inclined to ask follow-up questions. On a teleconference, it feels like performance art. I ask my questions, and if I don’t have obvious follow-ups, I go on my way.

      Now, some people here want you to respond to Hackworth’s answers with, “That’s BS. Here’s why.”

      I’ve done that before in a news conference. After the Delaware River oil spill back in 2004, I called BS on Frank Lautenberg in the middle of a news conference in Camden when he claimed credit for oil spill protection legislation that was in actuality pushed by Rob Andrews and Frank LoBiondo. Did it make good drama? I’m sure it did. Did I get to show off my brass balls for those in attendance? Sure. But it was FAR more significant when I wrote it in a newspaper article that thousands of people read the next day.

      And that’s the thing with Hackworth. It’s more significant if you write it.

      So am I going to call BS on Hackworth in a news conference? Only if there’s a really, really good reason. The usual platitudes that coaches give are not a good enough reason. Beyond that, I find him to be straight up with me in one-to-one conversations. He mans up. You’ve seen it in some more traditional newspaper-style stories that I’ve written. (I know. I don’t write many. I don’t get paid for this, and reporting is hard work.) I appreciate and respect that, and I don’t feel the need to theatrically show him up in a teleconference.

      Hackworth is clearly a guy who will not throw his own players under the bus. For example, he went with Wheeler over Berry, it’s pretty obvious how Wheeler performed, and what is there to say? The evidence says he got it wrong (unless Berry turns out to be nowhere near fit or in form). The message will get sent when the starting lineup is announced Saturday. What more should there be?

      • philpill says:

        What more should be is:”Coach, We know you appreciate that loyal fans were thrilled at the news of the Berry signing and those same loyal fans are confused with his playing behind a player learning the position on the job. How do you reassure them that Aaron start ahead of Austin?”

  9. philpill says:

    Apparently “shots on goal” is not one of those stats that show all the opportunities our line up & strategy are creating.

  10. I think Hackworth’s time as union manager has come to an end. Hackworth, Vete Ya!

  11. philpill says:

    If the U don’t have 11 points by Saturday night (which is not a certainty), Coach, you may wanna to stomp all over that panic button because IT’S PANIC TIME!!

  12. philpill says:

    What Berry & Chaco have in common is talent. Hackworth has made no excuse for Berry sitting and his excuse for Chaco is flimsy at best. I have to believe that both are not following orders – in training at least – and Hackworth is showing them whose way it will be. What other explanation for not playing your best talent as much as possible?

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