But it paid off: Freddy Adu scored twice and Josue Martinez scored his first career goal as the Union beat the Dynamo, 3-1, on a sun-drenched day in Chester.
"This is a coach's dream when he can come into a press conference and say, 'I told you so,' " Hackworth said with a broad smile. "Joking - but in all seriousness, I knew the goals were going to come for us. More so than that, I think we put together a pretty complete performance today. We were really good against an excellent team on both sides of the ball.
"Three points with our backs against the wall, we would have been out of the playoffs with anything but three points, so my hat's off to the team, they did a terrific job."
Adu scored for the first time since July 29, a 2-1 win over New England and, coincidentally, the game that preceded this winless streak. Adu later found the net on a penalty kick that gave the Union a 2-1 lead just 5 minutes into the second half.
Tied, 1-1, that second goal didn't come easy as Adu suffered a quad strain just below his right hip on the shot, which found the back of the net on the left side.
"I couldn't lift my foot to push off on it when I ran," said Adu, who shares the team lead in goals with five. "I had to come out of the game so it didn't get any worse. I think when I stepped in, I actually had to change where I was going at the last minute, and I think that's [when the injury occurred]."
The injury set off a bizarre chain of events, as Adu remained on the field for the tap but then limped over to the sideline to say he was done. The Union (8-14-6, 30 points) then spent close to 5 minutes with 10 players on the field, as Keon Daniel waited to come in. Moments after Daniel entered the game, he got kicked in the left shin and also had to leave; the Union spent nearly 6 minutes shorthanded.
In an odd way, it proved to be some of the best soccer the team played on the day, as a young squad settled into a 4-4-1 alignment and kept Houston (12-8-10, 46) from taking advantage of the situation.
"We knew going into these two games, the 3-day turnaround that we had to play a lot of different players," Hackworth said. "We talked about this being a team effort, these two games. That we were going to have to use our depth. What it is, [we] have a lot of young attacking players that need playing time."
One of those young players set up the first goal, as Raymon Gaddis had a fantastic run out of the backfield in the 28th minute. Gaddis, 22, who has struggled to get playing time behind right back Sheanon Williams, took off down the right side of the center circle, fought off a defender and sent a ball from just outside the 18-yard line to Adu. The pass created a collision between Houston keeper Tally Hall and back Kofi Sarkodie, allowing Adu to run onto the ball at the end line, bring it back in play, deke a defender left and then hit a shot inside the post on the left for a 1-0 lead.
"I could have let the ball go out but I wanted it so bad," said Adu, who tallied two goals in an MLS game for the first time in his career. "When you get the ball outside, 'Hack' has been adamant about me and [Martinez] getting inside the box. I did that, I was able to confuse them a little bit, and I just went one-on-one - you shoot the ball and go near post because the keeper can't see the ball."
"I saw Freddy," Gaddis said. "For me, it's a team game with 11 people. I wanted to come in and help the team because we've been struggling. Try to give the team some energy and make something happen early on."
Something Hackworth knew would come all along.