Now with a young team whose key additions include defender Jeff Parke and forwards Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux, the Union could be greatly improved.
Zac MacMath enters his second year as a starter, and it says here the 21-year-old goalkeeper has the ability to be a future MLS all-star, but has to show more consistency. Amobi Okugo is a developing player able to play in the midfield or in the back.
Midfielder Michael Farfan was an all-star last year, and defender Sheanon Williams is a potential all-star.
Ten of the 19 teams will qualify for the MLS postseason - five each from the Eastern and Western Conference - and the Union's season could be labeled a disappointment if they don't make it.
"We have higher goals than that, but making the playoffs is the minimum," said Casey, the new Union forward and all-time leading scorer for Colorado, with 50 goals.
Not so fast, says Hackworth about the playoffs-or-bust theory.
"We think we are good enough to compete with anybody," Hackworth said. "The big difference for us to improve from last year to this year is being consistent week in and week out and eliminate mistakes in crucial situations."
The Union scored 37 goals in 34 games, so improving the offense is the top priority. Casey, who has had injuries the last few years, says he feels great and is getting used to playing alongside Le Toux.
Those two veterans should help jump-start the offense.
Hackworth clearly thinks he may have a playoff team - he just doesn't think that's the only way to judge this season.
"My rationale is that we are still one of the youngest teams in MLS and especially in a city as competitive as Philadelphia, we can't set expectations that are too lofty and are unrealistic," Hackworth said.
Hackworth feels that it will take some time for the team to jell since this was the shortest training camp in franchise history, and the season opens three weeks earlier than it did in the Union's inaugural year.
The Union have one of the best fan bases in MLS, so those fans should have high expectations - despite Hackworth's resistance to them - after the franchise took a serious step back last year
Contact Marc Narducci at email@example.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.