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Union Notes: Testy D.C. United showdown looms; no decision yet on Kleberson’s status; and more

Jack McInerney, Jose Kleberson


In the team’s four year history, plenty of bad blood and tension has been built up between the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.

This Sunday, the Union return to RFK Stadium for the first time since August 19, 2012, where both teams played to a 1-1 draw that finished ten men on nine. Nine cards were shown, and the tensions boiled over towards the end of the match, with two red cards being shown to D.C. United and one to the Union.

This time around, manager John Hackworth says he hopes that cooler heads can prevail.

“Both teams got involved and the official was a part of it, and there was all kinds of craziness what happened,” Hackworth said during his weekly press conference. “I hope we don’t have the antics late in that game.

“At the same time, I wouldn’t go down there expecting anything less.”

Here are some more notes from the Union press conference:


In the 79th minute of last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Toronto FC, Union designated player signing Kleberson made his first appearance for the club, replacing Ray Gaddis.

After coming on, Kleberson helped give his side a spark in the midfield, nearly setting up his teammates on two occasions that could have won the game for the Union. Despite getting into his first career Major League Soccer game and another week on the training field with his new teammates, Hackworth has yet to decide whether the former Brazilian World Cup player will be starting this weekend.

“Kleberson has put himself in a position where he definitely is deserving of being selected,” Hackworth said. “I think we still need to be patient and try to judge whether it makes sense for him to play a role as a starter or coming off the bench. I don’t think we’re ready to make that decision yet.”

The overall fitness levels and adjusting to a new country could certainly be reasons that the 33-year-old isn’t yet in the starting lineup, but it looks like he will be available off the bench again this Sunday.


Despite only scoring once this season, the Union have set a target on the back of Leonard Pajoy, the 31-year-old forward for D.C. United.

The former Union front-man was traded last August for Danny Cruz, but because of the familiarity with the club and the fact that he scored against the Union last September, Hackworth believes that his team’s defense is going to have to keep him in their sights at all times.

“He [Pajoy] has been really good against us,” Hackworth said. “He has had some frustrations this year, so it’s a little scary because a player of his quality you think is due [to score].”

In addition, Hackworth mentioned forward Carlos Ruiz, who has played a role off the bench this season.

“Carlos is slowly ramping up with them, I would expect him to play a pretty big role on Sunday,” Hackworth said. “We’ve just got to prepare for those guys, but the fact that we know them is good.”


For the first time in a long time, the Union don’t have anyone nursing any injuries. Midfielder Matt Kassel has returned to first-team training after sitting for a couple of weeks with a right knee strain, and although he isn’t in full training with the squad, everyone else is participating at a high level.


What do you make of these statements? Do you see Kleberson playing a big role? Do you believe that the Union can keep a cool head at RFK?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. You’all need to realize that last Saturday’s game was boring because of the tactics implemented by Toronto coach Nelson, who from the start tried to break up any rhythm in the game by having his players fake injury or by fouling the Union players. He was hoping to play to his team’s strenghts (dangerous on set-pieces due to their height) Moreover, the Union don’t have money to spend, so Hack has to be creative with meager resources. So far, I believe he has done a decent job. However, I don’t know what he sees in Cruz. The boy hustles, but his soccer IQ borders on marginal.

    • @Shchors – You’re right that Toronto’s tactics didn’t help, but I don’t think Philly have been fun to watch this season. I agree that Hackworth “has done a decent job,” but he hasn’t been “creative with meager resources.” That’s my real issue with him – he hasn’t been creative or looked to inspire creativity. Here’s what I’ve seen: playing Lahoud and Carroll together; getting poorer performance this season than last from the Farfans; Torres never seeing the field; Cruz starting consistently; not playing the team’s two best forwards (Le Toux, Casey) with their top goal scorer (McInerney). One of these isn’t so bad, but all together make me wonder about Hackworth. It’s been a mediocre stint thus far.

  2. I’m as frustrated by the lack of a true playmaker as the next Philly fan. I see the wisdom in bringing a 33 year old player who is new to the league along slowly, but I also see a history of every creative player that has played under Hackworth have to play this “my way or it’s the bench for you” game. You even heard in leToux’s post match comments a stiffness.

    The first rule in soccer is don’t lose. I credit the union for not dropping points outright this season, but everyone who is concerned about the fact that there is no creativity in attack and is wondering if that is the fault of the coach are not totally off base as far as I can see.

  3. The Union are boring. I go to and watch games to be entertained, and Hackworth isn’t putting his players in a position to offer entertainment. The players must like him (or fear for their jobs) as they work hard, but if I want to watch a bunch of hardworkers run around, I could go watch a college soccer game.

    It appears that Hackworth is most concerned with not losing. Since the MLS doesn’t have relegation, what does he have to lose? With a more entertaining team, Philly would score more at home and fans would be happier. From a business perspective, who cares if they lose away from home, so long as home fans are happy? A change in tactics to a more attacking style is needed.

  4. Around the world major players are signed, move and go right into the team. That’s what makes them major signings. The fact that Hackworth is giving Kleberson more time to adjust shows a lack of desire to compete and win. His play versus TFC added a much needed spark. The best place to get adjusted to a style of play is on the game day field not the practice pitch. We are still early enough in the season that given the chance in the team he could prove to have the impact as the designated player he was signed as. Should that prove to not be the case then we have tried and failed, which is better then failing with out the attempt.

  5. Kleberson was easily the best player on the pitch from the moment he stepped on. If you’re a Philly fan how are you not screaming for Hackworth to be fired? How can you possibly not have him starting?

      • I think that if you didn’t know who Kleberson was and you watched his 21 min of play, you wouldn’t have the opinion. His rep is clouding your judgement.

        Sure, he played fine, but he’s not an appliance that you just plug & play. He has to get used to the team’s playing style as well as getting comfortable playing with the other members of the team and vice versa. It takes time. You can get on Hackworth for lots of other things, but this criticism is unwarranted.

      • I’m a Union STH and couldn’t disagree with you any more Padddy. Hackworth’s lineups have been awful and this team has been devoid of any semblance of creativity. So far this year, the U are actually averaging more fouls per game then shots per game.

        Hackworth’s midfield selections have lacked cohesion, vision, and the ability to build play. Instead they just play kick and run the minute the ball goes into midfield. A perfect example is how the game started this weekend with Carroll aimlessly booting the ball from the opening kick off.

        Hackworth keeps claiming that he wants the team to play “Philly tuff”. What he doesn’t realize is that the Broad Street Bullies played Hockey, 40 years ago and the U fans want to see positive, aesteticly pleasing soccer.

        Kleberson may be in an adjustment stage, but my goodness he created more chances from midfield in 10 minutes then the rest of the midfield created in 80. I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for a starting mdfield of Carroll, LeToux, Daniel, and Danny Cruz (i want to slice my eyes with a razor blade every time I see him trip over the ball).

        The only thing helpig Hackworth at this point is that his name is not Piotr Nowack.

      • Thank you. To me, Hackworth’s worst mistakes that he keeps on making is starting Danny Cruz, whose flaws are obvious and have been stated enough, and deploying Lahoud (who isn’t BAD, just offers nothing to the attack) in situations in which he’s redundant. The fact that this team HAS the talent to play an exciting, attacking brand of soccer but Hackworth chooses not to use it is absolutely mind boggling. By now, I can officially say that his lineup choices are indeed worse than Piotr Nowak’s.

      • Dan C & Ang – I’m a STH and you didn’t read my post closely enough. I thought to criticize Hackworth for not using Kleberson was unwarranted, I wasn’t absolving him for the other things that he’s done.

      • Kleberson had only been on the team for 10 days, and last Saturday’s match was his first with the Union. I’d expect him to start in the near future. Hackworth has proven to adjust his lineups this season when players earn starts (see Casey starting up top instead of the ineffective Le Toux).

      • I would actually add Marfan to that as well. The kid keeps being touted and the designated playmaker of the team and I just don’t see it. I don’t mean, he hasn’t done it, I mean, the potential for him to play that role is grossly overstated.

        What I do see is a hard worker and a useful player, but hardly a talent to build your offense around.

    • If MLS is going to keep growing( it already is a qualified success) Games like Toronto/Philadelphia can not be accepted. The skill set of the teams was appalling as was the officiating. It was painful to watch. As a Union fan I question John Hackworth’s consistent starting of Cruz. He is not a pro manager and will stunt the growth of professional soccer in this region. The Union almost lost the game vs Toronto. Hackworth will tell you how frustrated he was, however he is a major part of the problem. He has no game plan and relies on the miscues of opponents in order to eak out a result. He uses the same boring cliches and talking points and does not address glaring weaknesses game in and game out. He needs to go.


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