After tying the Chicago Fire, John Hackworth took a moment to discuss the match with The Philly Soccer Page.
Philly Soccer Page: Both Farfans were used as outside backs tonight. What did you think of their play? It seemed like Chicago was able to pin them back more than you might like.
John Hackworth: First of all, it’s Michael’s second game starting as a back. So he’s very new to that position.
PSP: I’m sure he remembers Oduro though.
JH: Right. And they’ve got some flat-out pace out wide. On both sides. So it was a big challenge. We’ve had – with the exception of Gabe coming in for Jordan – Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes – the same four every game. So I don’t want to mention any specifics but that change is a big change.
PSP: All the players talk about consistency in the back.
JH: It’s huge. It’s huge. But that said, I thought Michael did a solid job.
PSP: Do you think it’s been a tough adjustment for Michael?
JH: Yeah, we want him to get forward. But in a tough game like this, especially since Chicago came out the way they did, they pin you back a little bit and it’s hard to get out.
PSP: Did you think Chicago’s new guys (Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini) made a big difference tonight?
JH: Yeah, yeah. Pardo showed leadership but Grazzini was fantastic. He was really good. He gave us a lot of problems. But they were fighting for their lives, we are down a couple players at the moment so…
PSP: One of the things Peter [Nowak] talked about with Carlos Ruiz gone is the issues finishing, did that come into play tonight?
JH: You see it tonight. Danny Mwanga had some really good chances and I think normally Danny puts those away. Then it’s a whole different story with this game. But Danny’ll be there again. He’ll come back. He’s got to keep the confidence.
PSP: Is figuring out how to use Danny a tough game to play with someone that young? Especially with people chanting his name most of the time?
JH: It’s very tough. And it’s hard for him. The fact is that he’s still a very young player at an early stage of his career. And to have made such a huge step from the level he played on to this one…
PSP: Do you see certain tendencies in guys coming out of college? To go more direct?
JH: No, it just depends on… there are some very excellent college programs out there. And not to say that Oregon State isn’t one of them but they won’t necessarily get to play the highest RPIs out there.
PSP: What about the midfield tonight? It seemed like sometimes the shape was there and sometimes it just wasn’t. What was happening from your perspective? What do you do to make adjustments to fix and keep the shape?
JH: In this game, we are coming on the road, we know we’re down a bit. So our adjustment was to see if we could get Seba to join Pauno up top. It didn’t happen because we didn’t hold the ball long enough for that to happen at times. So we switched it and brought Pauno back. So Seba could press a little higher and have a little more energy and a little more speed up there and it opened things up for us. And we got a great goal.
PSP: About Roger Torres: It seems like when he’s really making the offense purr he’s playing on the carpet. But sometimes he gets in the habit of going over the top, over the top, over the top. Is that something you are working on with him? Or are you fine with his style and just want him to make sure those balls are perfect when he plays them?
JH: We’re just trying to make sure that Roger, who is another young player, understands that a risky ball like that can hurt us. For instance, in the first half we are pushing forward. We’ve finally got the ball and we’ve got some rhythm and he goes for a long square one. It’s not a good ball. Because the defender can read that and doesn’t have to be anywhere close to the play to get it. That’s the kind of ball that we’re trying to educate him: In this league, with things as tight as they are, coming to Chicago against a team that’s desperate and has a lot of new players, you’re going to have to make sure that you’re connecting. And then when the magic one is there, go for it. He doesn’t have a problem making the magic ones, but he can get caught up taking an extra touch or passing up the simple one when he shouldn’t be.
PSP: Did Chicago come out the way you expected? It seemed like they pressured high and with two strikers whenever Danny and Carlos…
JH: Well for me, that’s our fault. Because we played into their hands rather than play around them. We shouldn’t have ever had Danny and Carlos try to make the game for us. We should have found the Farfans wide and then come inside to BC and to Roger. We just didn’t do a good job of it. And sometimes you have to do that just to alleviate pressure. Especially away.
PSP: There has been a lot of moving around on offense, a lot of changes. Are you starting to see it come together at all?
JH: I think our expectations are high. The kind of soccer we want to play is difficult to play. And that’s why you don’t see a lot of teams in the league trying to do it. It’s much more traditional. But I don’t think we’re ever going to stop trying to do it. Because we believe that’s the way to be successful long term and really build the brand we want to have at this franchise. And I think for fans – and I said this after Real Madrid – fans come and watch us and they’re entertained because we play an attractive style. We move the ball and have a lot of mobility and we get numbers forward and when you do that and it works, it’s great. But there’s an opponent on the other side of the ball who obviously doesn’t want you to do those things.
PSP: It gets the fans’ expectations pretty high.
JH: Sure, but you go on the road in MLS and anybody’ll tell you it’s always, always difficult. There’s too much parity in this league for you to look at the table and say, ‘Hey, Philly’s not sucking and Chicago’s not near the top so this is an easy game for Philly.’
PSP: Do you think, with that in mind, there’s going to come a time when you can rest these guys who play every game? Or will you have to ride them?
JH: I think you saw tonight with Stefani getting ninety minutes and Roger getting his first start in a really long time and Pauno got a start, Michael Farfan got a start. It’s a different team. So I think we’re doing a good job of it.
PSP: And new guys coming in, obviously.
PSP: Thank you for talking, I really appreciate it.