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Union Notes: Heavy loss overshadows controversial call; holes to fill on defense; and more

John Hackworth


A few days removed from the Philadelphia Union’s heavy 5-1 defeat to the New England Revolution on Sunday, John Hackworth wanted to press the point that sometimes “perception becomes reality” after a big loss.

And in this case, his and the Union’s reality was that the outcome could have been quite different if the officiating had been different too.

“I don’t think there’s enough recognition that there’s a massive decision in that game that goes against us that changes everything,” Hackworth said in the team’s press conference Wednesday. “It changed the outcome for the game, and it also changed the outcome for possible playoff scenarios. I don’t think there’s enough being talked about on that side of it.”

The most controversial decision came in the 55th minute with the score level at 1-1. After goalie Matt Reis spilled a cross in the box, Conor Casey was on hand to score the loose rebound and seemingly give the Union the lead. However, referee Allen Chapman ruled that Reis had possession of the ball, meaning Casey had fouled him in scoring the rebound. New England would go on to take the lead for good just three minutes later, pouring in a further three goals in the following 15 minutes.

Hackworth was willing to take “full responsibility” for mistakes made by both himself and the players in what followed the decision, but said it has been hard for the players to move on from the loss this week because of the growing perception that the defeat was an embarrassment. He even referenced former Union and current ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman as an example where both sides of the story were not completely considered in an assessment of the loss.

“We’ll never know ultimately what would have happened (if the goal stood),” Hackworth said. “I’m absolutely sure you wouldn’t have 11 players on that field in Foxboro who were beside themselves frustrated.

“My feeling is, we would have gotten out of there with a good result.”

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


With Ray Gaddis still “questionable”, and Amobi Okugo now sidelined for two games, the Union are bracing for an entirely different look on defense when Montreal comes to town on Saturday.

Okugo was already going to be banned for yellow card accumulation after picking up a booking in the 75th minute of the Union’s defeat to New England. However, the center back also picked up a second yellow card in the first minute of stoppage time in the second half, meaning he would incur a further one-match ban for that sending off. It will be the first time in 49 matches, dating back to May 26 of last year, that Okugo has not played in a match for the Union.

“We’ll have to deal with it, but it’s a tough loss,” Hackworth said of losing one of his key components in a defense that had been going through a strong run of form before the New England rout.

Solutions for the loss of Okugo are still being explored. Sheanon Williams, Chris Albright, and Matt Kassel are all being considered for sliding in at center back. A healthy Michael Lahoud saw over an hour of action against New England following the departure of Keon Daniel to injury, and Hackworth said he would be an option to fill right back if Williams is forced to move to the center.

He also would not rule out the possibility of sliding Aaron Wheeler back into his familiar role at center back. Wheeler has seen time playing at striker in the summer months, becoming an impact target forward off the bench in several matches. With Okugo absent though, he has made his way back into the mix on defense.

“Aaron’s done a really good job in training the last two days,” Hackworth said.

“We know Amobi’s important, but now maybe comes an opportunity for someone else.”


The lack of a true midfield playmaker has been a notable aspect of the Union’s tactics this season, creating an attacker-by-committee format between Brian Carroll and Keon Daniel and recently forcing Conor Casey to play deeper to link the midfield to the forwards. However, this area of the field has been a struggle according to Hackworth.

“I think that’s a fair assessment,” he said, saying that the move to bring Casey underneath McInerney was a tactical one twice prior to the New England match, where Casey played alone up front.

In total, Daniel, Carroll, and Michael Farfan have combined for just three goals and three assists this season playing as the Union’s primary central midfielders. Fellow contributors Kleberson and Leo Fernandes have been unable to record either statistic so far this season.

It has been a very lean area of the field in terms of attack this season for Philadelphia. However, with Daniel questionable for the weekend match with Montreal, several players are in the mix to fill the void and try to bring some attack to the center of the midfield.

“Michael Farfan would be an obvious choice, and Kleberson and Leo Fernandes (are also being considered),” Hackworth said. “We could go with two defensive guys and bring (Michael) Lahoud in there…we’ll have to see over the next few days how things play out.”


  • Hackworth said that Jack McInerney took his substitute’s role “really well” when it was presented to him before the New England game and worked hard when he came in despite the lopsided scoreline.
  • Regarding Saturday’s home match with the Montreal Impact, Hackworth said it would be a “huge challenge” to turn around from the deflating loss to New England and face the top team in the East.
  • Hackworth reemphasized that he has wanted to play highly-paid Designated Player Kleberson “several times” but that it has not happened due to tactics.

What do you think of these developments? Do you see the Union overcoming the controversy at New England and still making the playoffs? How will the defense line up this weekend against Montreal? What do you see as the solution to the Union’s lack of attacking play in the midfield?

Share you thoughts below.


  1. He “wants” to play Kleberson…. sure. If he really wanted to, Lahoud would not have been on the pitch against the Revs.

    Putting Lahoud in for an injured Daniel, is not “tactics;” that’s a manager out of touch with the game.

  2. “Perception” is reality Hackworth, you are a whiner. The call went against your team. So what? Deal with it. There is no excuse for that pathetic effort after that call. Take some responsibility for that defensive unit you put out there and have trained all season. Answer the question why both of your outside backs continue to run into the attack and expose your remaining defenders. Is that on them or part of your brilliant plan? You are in over your head and it shows every week.

  3. there are holes all over this lineup, not just defense.
    – a keeper that is truly ready to be #1 (handling crosses, managing the entire 18, organizing back line)
    – height on the backline
    – a true center attacking midfielder with creativity and skill with the ball at his feet to help make the speed on the flanks and at forward more effective. All that running Hackworth values so highly doesn’t mean cr@p if the ball doesn’t get to you.

    Bad call notwithstanding. This result should not be surprising. This team is performing exactly the way it’s been set up. We need better players AND a better coach.

    • I’m still not a fan of MacMath but I must admit that he’s played quite well in the past few weeks. I totally agree with the midfield and the central midfield is sooooo deficient. They don’t need a world-beater or anything, they just need someone who is competent. They could probably get away with Brian Carroll and someone good or Keon Daniel and someone good, but not with both of them on the field.

  4. not to pile on but Danny Cruz is not a starting quality midfielder. I know he’s a hard worker and a nice guy too. He is a one trick pony on the field and is best suited for a role off the bench

  5. I recognize that I am not a professional coach. I don’t see these players in training. I don’t know what the coach asks of them on the field.

    I can tell you one thing though–for what Hackworth says he thinks Farfan brings to the table–he’s wrong. Period. Just wrong.

    I get that there’s been a lot of controversy about the coaching staffs in Philly the past couple years. Kleberson has been quite good every time I’ve seen him play.

    The things Hackworth says he is looking for and that are missing are right in front of him on the bench. Not sure what else he expects.

    • There should be an award that’s the opposite of the Comeback Player of the Year. It’d be like Most Deteriorated Player of the Year. If said award existed, Michael Farfan would be a complete shoo-in.

      • I agree with both of you. I kind of think there should be an award that can most drastically hinder the most athletic careers in a season. I think Hack would be a contender most years. The guy reall does seem to be in over his head. Probably a usable assistant coach…just not groomed enough to be the big man yet.

  6. Shut up about the call hackworth! You lost by 4 goals! Take some responsibility. And Casey coming back into midfield is a tactical decision? Does he know nothing about soccer? And if Wheeler starts at center back…

  7. “Michael Farfan would be an obvious choice, and Kleberson and Leo Fernandes (are also being considered),” Hackworth said.

    hahahahahaha. Barfan is the worst. He produces nothing on & off the ball. Enough already Hack-Worthless with your coach’s pet. Play Kleb, play Torres, or buy someone who can run & organize a midfield. Barfan/Daniel have had there minutes and they STINK!!!


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