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Union Notes: Fernandes impresses in Open Cup; Torres absence discussed; and more

LeoFernandesUnion2-OceanCity (PhillySoccerPage)


The Philadelphia Union’s lineup stated it, but head coach John Hackworth wanted to explain: the U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday night against the Ocean City Nor’easters was not a time to try out new players or “play guys on the roster.”

“We’ve taken it very seriously. We want to win the trophy,” Hackworth stated, despite hailing the hard work of fringe players like Aaron Wheeler, Don Anding, and Matt Kassel.

One player he did give an opportunity to in the midfield in Tuesday’s Third Round fixture was first-year midfielder Leo Fernandes. The 21-year-old Brazilian and Stony Brook product was handed his first start of the season in the middle of Hackworth’s initial 4-3-3 formation, and put on one of the brightest performances in the Union’s 2-1 win over Ocean City.

“He got this opportunity because he earned it,” Hackworth said. “It wasn’t me trying to throw a bone to anybody and say, ‘Hey, this is an Open Cup game, so I’m going to start a rookie.’ Leo, we felt, was one of our best options, especially coming from Montreal with some tired legs. I thought he was excellent.”

Fernandes had previously appeared once this season for just one minute in the Union’s 1-0 home win over Chicago back on May 18. Despite his prior lack of playing time, he showed spurts of potential in his 89 minutes played against Ocean City by freely taking on defenders, controlling the midfield play, and occasionally making forward runs.

Here are some other notes from this week’s Union press conference:


An ongoing talking point this season for the Union has been the fall of young midfielder Roger Torres, who has played a mere 10 minutes all year despite no injuries. An MCL injury last April limited the 21-year-old Colombian to just 10 appearances in 2012, but he came into camp healthy and performed well in the eyes of many during this year’s preseason.

His one appearance this year came off the bench against Sporting Kansas City to start the season, but he has been limited to just an unused substitute role since then. More recently, he has not even made the matchday 18 for Philadelphia, including Tuesday’s Open Cup match.

“It is what it is…Roger’s got to play better in training,” Hackworth said on Tuesday. “If he does that, he’ll get an opportunity. But we have a lot of competition.”

He provided more clarification on the situation in his Thursday press conference, citing the amount of depth the team has in the middle of the field as a big reason why Torres has been absent.

“Guys are in front of him, and have stepped in front of him, taken their opportunities, and done better with them,” Hackworth said. “At some point, I need to give Roger that same kind of chance, but he needs to earn that chance.”

Hackworth also said that there are no issues between him and Torres, and that the club have not considered trade talks involving Torres.

Torres has been with the club since their inaugural season in 2010, notching six assists in 21 league appearances that year and adding three goals and two assists in 25 appearances in 2011.


  • Ivory Coast international Abdul Kader Keita has been brought in on trial with the Union. John Hackworth confirmed Thursday that the 31-year-old winger has been on trial “for a few weeks”, and that the staff are evaluating if he can contribute to the squad. Keita has previous experience with Lille and Galatasaray in Europe, but has been out of contract since the end of 2012.
  • The Union return to action this Saturday on the road against Toronto FC. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. The two teams drew 1-1 on April 13 at PPL Park, with Robert Earnshaw and Jack McInerney trading goals to split the points.


  1. 1. MacMath is a 20 year old goalkeeper. They’re letting him develop. Right now I don’t think he’s the goalkeeper of the future based on his play.

    2. I agree about Gaddis. He’s only playing LB because they failed to pick one up in the offseason and Garfan wanted to only play in the midfield.

    3. Casey,Parke, and Kleberson didn’t come cheap. They’re trying to rectify the mess Nowak left last season. Valdes wanted to play in the Copa Libertadores though, so they had no choice but to let him go back to Santa Fe.

    4. I think Union fans really overrate Torres. He makes a couple nice passes and everyone thinks he’s Xavi. He’s a dwarf who can’t be relied on for more than 30 minutes at a time. They let him start against Pumas in a friendly and he was one of the worst players on the field. Like Adu, he really struggles when teams pressure him and force him to make quick decisions. The answer to improving this midfield isn’t on this roster right now. I hope they’re clearing out space to pick up more players this summer. Keita would be a great pickup.

    • Like Adu, Torres actually has talent on the ball. He has the type of talent on the ball that could make him more dangerous to a defense than any other player on the team. The type of talent that old school American coaches who played classless soccer in the 80s does not know how to use. The type of talent that gets overlooked because he can’t run really fast mile times and wind sprints at practices like the blokes that somehow become professionals and play ahead of him (only to squeak by basically Amateur sides in US Open Cup games).

    • I totally agree about fans overrating Torres. People in my section act like subbing him on will magically reverse the fate of a game which is something he’s never done. That said, I don’t see why Keon Daniel gets a guaranteed start. He didn’t run with the ball at all against Ocean City.

      I did get the feeling that players were told to play one touch on that game. It was like watching Barcelona, if every player had a concussion. That was the worst win I’ve ever seen.

  2. It continues to be obvious that this FO is looking to drop as much salary as possible to try to build a team that may compete in 2-3 yrs from now. This team has no intention to win now with Hack’s coaching style; rather they are content with trying to develop cheap, young players while lying to the fan base about their goals to win. Couple of points to show this:

    -The continuation of starting McMath even though he continues to give up soft goals on weekly basis.
    -The attempt to mold Gaddis in to a starting left back even though he can only go to the right.
    -The shedding of all high contracts for practically nothing ie Valdes, Soumare, etc
    -They refuse to pay Torres since he was a Nowak player and will be gone by the end of the season.
    -Lastly, playing your starters game after game even if that means 6 games in 3 weeks.

  3. Why Hackworth continues to play Zac McMath is a big question. The kid is a no better than a high school freshman keeper. His mistakes continue to cost the Union games. The organization needs to let this little leaguer go and search for another keeper.

    • Talking about being in over one’s head, the team’s current Technical Director, Rob Vartughian, who is in charge of “overseeing scouting and evaluation of players” for the Union, is actually a goalkeeper coach. He’s actually the former goalkeeping coach from the University of Maryland, who coached Chris Seitz, aka the worst goalkeeper in the MLS in 2010 and 2011, and Zac Macmath while they were in college. 1. A goalkeeper coach should not be a Technical Directer for a professional club. 2. He’s not even good at scouting goalies.

      MLS needs to replace slouch coaches like Hack and Vartughian. They are boring coaches who only care about fitness and athleticism instead of a player’s intelligence and style. Modern players, who’ve played much more competitive soccer in their youth than these middle-aged American dudes, need coaches who will educate them and grow them, not run them to death and make them practice with heart monitors on.

  4. Is John Hackworth on drugs? Fernandes was hardly “excellent” save for two nice dribbles. He got caught with the ball repeatedly, didn’t put in much effort defensively and wasted a few good opportunities to make score or create a great chance. Let’s also remember that this was against college players who weren’t very good.

    Brian, the above commenter, may be right – John Hackworth is the worst coach in the league.

  5. Is Hackworth the worst coach in MLS now that Chelis is gone? Having nearly zero squad rotation before a match with a push over team like Toronto with 3 days rest is completely stupid. Now, this game will be winnable for Toronto. Watch for the Union’s tired legs in this one folks. So dumb.

    My other prediction, is the Union are super cheap, and they won’t want to win the USOC because that will force them to take on the travel expense down to Central America. Mark my words.

    Finally, I am glad the Sounders are out of it. Meritocracy rules!

    • I’ve been saying for a while now that Hackworth is the worst head coach in MLS. He had no significant previous head coaching experience, makes awful substitutions, can’t manage the squad and rarely manages to pair the right players. On top of that, his continued backing of the worst goalkeeper in MLS, Zac MacMath, is stupifying. That guy sucks and still is never held accountable for his awful play.

      • You’re both pretty much spot on. Hackworth is in over his head and doesn’t know what he is doing.

    • It’s hard to say most coaches in MLS are terrible. I would venture to say Chelis is better than 90% of most MLS coaches. The talent he had on Chivas USA would have a hard time winning in the USL


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