Marc Narducci: Union need to find scoring touch again

The Union's John Hackworth says team confidence is nota problem.
The Union's John Hackworth says team confidence is nota problem. (   YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: September 08, 2012

First and foremost, this has not been a vacation week for the Union, who are experiencing extended downtime during this endless Major League Soccer season.

The Union (7-13-5, 26 points) will have a two-week break between last Saturday's scoreless draw in New England and their next game, Sept. 15 in Toronto.

Nobody has been talking playoffs lately and with good reason. The new goal is to score a goal, or maybe two.

The Union have totaled three goals in their last six games, none of which resulted in a win. With an 0-3-3 mark in the last six games, the Union have pretty much abandoned hope of a late-season playoff run.

They have nine games remaining. The top five teams in the Eastern Conference qualify and the Union trail the two teams tied for fourth, Columbus and Houston, by 16 points. The Union do own two games in hand on both.

Team manager John Hackworth put an end to playoff talk two games ago, after a 2-1 loss to Columbus in a game the Union squandered a 1-0 lead.

Right now, the priorities for Hackworth are seeing the team continue to play hard and getting the offense in gear.

The last time the Union scored more than one goal in a game was a 2-1 win over visiting New England on July 29.

Like any good leader, Hackworth won't throw his offensive players under the proverbial bus.

"We have guys who have the ability to find the back of the net," he said at his weekly news conference.

That might be true, but at least this year, they need some explicit directions.

And even as the goals and subsequent wins have been difficult to come by lately, Hackworth insists that the team hasn't lost its confidence.

"Confidence is not a problem with our team," Hackworth said. "If you look at the way we play and how teams played against us, I would argue by far statistically we have outplayed our oppo-

nents."

He has a point, but one that goes only so far.

As far as putting pressure on the opponent goes, the Union have frequently been better in that department, the aforementioned 2-1 loss to the Crew being one example.

Yet the Union are also last in MLS in shots on goal with 85. Granted, the Union and Chivas USA have both played the fewest games (25) and have the two lowest shot totals (Chivas has 86), but both totals are still low.

The Union not only need to finish chances, but they have to create more scoring opportunities, and the one way to do that is to pepper the opposing keeper with shots.

The Union are 1-10-1 when allowing the first goal, which further demonstrates the need to apply early pressure and cash in on those opportunities.

This week, the team has been working on all sorts of things, but no doubt offense has taken the highest priority.

Practices are likely even more intense than usual, simply because Hackworth says that is where playing time can be earned.

"Our training this week is about our development," he said. "It's nice we don't have to worry about an opponent."

No, the major worry is to revive the sagging offense in practice, and then hope it translates into the kind of attack the team was able to generate in late July, but hasn't been able to recapture since.


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @sjnard

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