Struggling Union face tall order in Seattle

Union manager John Hackworth said his team has often dominated this season without getting the results.
Union manager John Hackworth said his team has often dominated this season without getting the results.
Posted: May 04, 2014

The Union have not won a game in more than a month. They have not scored a goal from the run of play in their last three games. They have fallen from playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

These are the facts facing the Union as they travel to Seattle for a meeting Saturday with the Sounders, the hottest club in Major League Soccer, and Union manager John Hackworth does not deny any of it. He just refuses to buy into the panic that has surfaced in some corners this week.

"We feel unlucky up to this point that we are not in a much better spot," Hackworth said. "The reality is that this game can be cruel sometimes. You can absolutely dominate and not get the result you wanted, and we've had that so many times this year."

Hackworth believes in staying the course because he does not think his team has played badly to this point. He said last week he thought the Union (1-3-5) should have won five of their first eight games.

The Union have controlled possession in their last game and a half. The advanced metrics Hackworth uses to gauge their play - statistics such as the number of penalty-area entries and successful passes forward - have all been favorable.

Of course, should the team remain mired in its skid, Hackworth knows that logic will not pacify anyone for long.

"We can look at every statistic there is. In the game of soccer, the one thing that matters is we didn't get the results," Hackworth said.

One player he will be looking to for more results is midfielder Cristian Maidana. The 27-year-old Argentine has had a season emblematic of the Union in total: He has had moments of brilliance, but has just two assists in eight games.

"People have to be patient with a player that comes from a very different culture and is trying to adapt to this league. It's a big challenge," Hackworth said. "There's a long list of players that were extremely successful coming from other leagues around the world who have had struggles here."

Maidana, who left his club team in Argentina to sign with the Union as a designated player, was expected to make more of an offensive impact. He has yet to play a full 90 minutes in any game.

"Cristian first and foremost has to adapt to the level of fitness of the players in this league," Hackworth said. "There's a reason why he hasn't gone 90."

While the Union's quality of play to this point may be a matter of perception, there is no debate on the enormity of their task Saturday.

The Sounders (5-2-1) are atop the league standings with 19 points. They have won their last three games by a cumulative score of 9-4. Clint Dempsey has eight goals in six games.

The Sounders are particularly tough at CenturyLink Field, where they average more than 38,000 fans. They are 12-4-4 over the last two seasons in the building that is also home to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

"It arguably has to be one of the most difficult places to play," Hackworth said. "It's loud, it's a difficult surface to play on. All of those factors make this a big challenge for us."


Union at Sounders

What: Major League Soccer,

Union (1-3-5) at Seattle Sounders FC (5-2-1)

When: Saturday at 10 p.m.

Where: CenturyLink Field

TV: The Comcast Network

Union on the road: 0-3-2; Sounders at home: 2-2-0.

Goals for: Union, 9; Sounders, 18.

Goals against: Union, 11; Sounders, 12.

Outlook: The Sounders' Clint Dempsey, the captain of the U.S. national team, was the MLS player of the month for April. He scored seven goals in April and leads the league in many offensive categories. ... Obafemi Martins has scored in consecutive games. He has three goals and four assists for the season. Either Dempsey or Martins has been involved in 14 of the Sounders' 18 goals. ... Seattle was 3-0-1 in April. ... The Sounders set a club record by scoring three goals in an eight-minute span in a 4-1 victory over Colorado last week. ... The teams are 2-2-2 against each other all-time. . . . Fred remains the only Union player out with an injury.                            - Tim McManus


tmcmanus@philly.com

@ByTimMcManus

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