Interim Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth hard at work

Posted: June 21, 2012

"Let's face it, the guys are looking for some continuity and [as coaches] so are we. We are not trying to make anymore wholesale changes to the lineup. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Union interim manager John Hackworth

JOHN HACKWORTH looked as though he hasn't slept in a week.

He acknowledged as much during his weekly news conference at PPL Park Wednesday as the Union prepares to host two games in 4 days: an MLS contest against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (7 p.m., The Comcast Network), then a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against minor league affiliate Harrisburg on Tuesday (7:30 p.m.).

To achieve success, Hackworth is tasked with finding the right players to keep some sense of continuity in the lineup, removing the revolving door situation that was visible (and annoying) under former manager Peter Nowak.

"The days have been long, but I enjoy the work," Hackworth said. "The group of guys that we are working with and the whole staff have been fantastic?…?but there is a lot of work to be done, and it's the type of work anyone in my shoes would like to do. We trying to make sure that everything we do improves us on a day-to-day basis, and our record [2-8-2] shows we have a lot of work to do."

Sporting Kansas City's philosophy of building success through youth is similar to the Union's. SKC started out slow last season, posting a 1-6-3 record in its first 10 matches, before finding continuity and making a run to the conference semifinals of last year's playoffs. This season, SKC has vaulted out to a 9-3-1 MLS mark (28 points) and is in second in the Eastern Conference behind D.C. United, another young club.

However, for Hackworth, it's less about mimicking teams to succeed than to do it his way — to a point.

Asked how much his team copies other teams, Hackworth replied: "To be 100 percent honest, no. One part I think [SKC] does really well is that they are a very good counterattacking team, they get out on the break very quickly. In a previous existence, I was a Florida Gators fan, and if any of you remember the run-and-gun from the Steve Spurrier days, they are kind of like that. Every time they get the ball, they are out, and they are fast and get out quickly.

“That, I think, is something that you have to be mindful of and also admire. Is that something we'd like to do? Sure. Possession doesn't win you soccer games. It dictates rhythm?…?I don't look at SKC and think we want to steal things from their game plan, but I do look at them and think that there are some things that they do that we could be doing better."

That may arrive now with many of the players claiming there is a lot more freedom to try things in the post-Nowak era and that the fear of making a mistake for fear of being benched is gone under Hackworth.

"It's a lot more comfortable now," forward Jack McInerney said. "I feel like you know where you stand with him. Our job is to go out there and be the best, and I feel that coach Hackworth puts us in a great position to be successful. We have a good locker room, and I think we have what it takes to prove we are a good team."

Hackworth expresed similar sentiments, noting that, while it might have looked as if not much changed from before in a 1-0 loss to United on Saturday, the little things will make all the difference in the long run.

"Peter and I are very similar when it comes to soccer, so I don't think that the soccer was different," Hackworth said. "The only thing that I would say — and I say this with no disrespect and all the humility that I have — is that I think the players felt like they, at least with the lineup that I put out and with what I asked of them, is to play with a lot of freedom and no fear. I don't know if that's a tangible or not, but I was certainly proud of way our players took on that challenge."

Odds and endlines

Hackworth said a few guys are "banged up": Defender Sheanon Williams has a sprained toe; midfielder Gabriel Gomez has left knee tendinitis; and Roger Torres is still working to regain full match fitness following a knee injury. All are game-day decisions ... Midfielder Freddy Adu said that he attempted to reach out via text to Peter Nowak the day he was sacked, but that Nowak hadn't responded ... What is the signficance of 1-4-1? It is the Union's identical record, both home and away.

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