Photo: Earl Gardner
After the Philadelphia Union’s open training session on Monday, coach John Hackworth talked with the media. Hackwork elaborated upon many of the themes he discussed in his recent letter to season ticket holders. He addressed the Freddy Adu situation extensively and weighed on a number of topics including Carlos Valdes, the left back situation and the naming of Brian Carroll as the team’s new captain.
PSP also spoke with center back Bakary Soumare and new signings Conor Casey and Aaron Wheeler.
John Hackworth on naming Brian Carroll captain
“Brian has certainly earned that opportunity through his actions and his character and the way he exemplified a terrific leader last year in support of Carlos….Brian has a really good group of senior leadership around him, guys like Chris Albright, who was extremely influential to the job last year…We have some new guys that are experienced as well and who at different times in their careers have worn the arm band.”
Hackworth on Freddy Adu
“We presented Freddy with a couple of scenarios. We would feel comfortable bringing him back under certain conditions. Freddy came back and said I’m going to stick with my current situation and play under the current one. He made it very clear that was his choice and he has that option. He’s under contract to us. But if he made that choice, he wasn’t going to be coming back as part of the team.
“We basically said if you’re willing to renegotiate, come back under some different guidelines, we’ll be happy to talk. If you don’t want to do that we want to make sure you clearly understand that you won’t be back with us….Freddy and I have had enough conversations that it was very clear between he and I. His representative Richard Motzkin was part of that conversation as well.”
On renegotiating Adu’s contract…
“When it comes to the contract, it’s pretty much financial. But a lot of it has to do with the role that Freddy would play within our team, especially if you compare him and his stature in our locker room relative to the guys that were in there. Contract-wise it was mostly financial, but there were some things that we wanted to talk about and made sure we understood.”
On where it went wrong…
“I should have started this by saying Freddy is a very talented young man. I’ve said it a million times before, but I don’t think many people have an appreciation for Freddy the way that I do as far as what he can do on the field and the things that he’s capable of. He certainly didn’t meet the lofty expectations that were placed on him within our team … that was ultimately what it came down to.
“He’s on a long-term contract that makes it hard for a team in this league with the salary cap restrictions that we have and so forth to do some things with a player like that if they’re not fitting into your plans and doing everything from a team and club perspective that a player is expected to do.”
If Freddy were to take a renegotiated deal now could he still rejoin the team?
“That time has passed. We’ve had many many conversations in that regard. This has been something that’s been in the works for months.”
What is the status of trying to move Freddy?
“There’s lots of teams around the world that have been interested. He certainly has a name that has a lot of value. I think that’s where coaches look at some of the things he is able to do as a player. He’s got talent, there’s no question about that. But how he puts that all together, that’s up to Freddy. For us, it didn’t amount to everything that we expected. Not for this team, not for going forward under the philosophy that this club was founded on and the direction that we want to have a long lasting future with.
“We’re trying to find a situation that’s good for the Philadelphia Union and one that’s good for Freddy. We want him to hopefully go on and have a very successful career. He’s only 23 years old, he’s got a lot in front of him. At the same time, it has to be something that works for us as well.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we’re going to continue to work on it.”
Hackworth on Carlos Valdes
“I’m planning on the fact that he’ll be back here next year. But the reality is that if he starts for Columbia as they get closer to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup that changes life for Carlos in a big way. It would also change things for us in a big way. I don’t want to speculate what can happen and what can’t happen. This is an opportunity that we feel is good for Carlos. We’re trying to make the best out of it. But at no point are we saying this is the last time we’ll see Carlos Valdes in a Union uniform. It’s simply a loan. These kinds of things happen all the time in this business. Something that was good for both the player and the club.”
Hackworth on left back
On Gabe Farfan
“Gabe Farfan is our starting left back. He’s without a doubt one of the best left backs in terms of just soccer ability. He might not be a true left back, but the way that we play and our style, we want our left back to be an attacking player and he’s very good at that. Not to say that he was perfect last year. He’s still a young guy who two years into that position was developing. You have some other guys that can play both sides in the back: Sheanon Williams, Ray Gaddis…”
On Damani Richards
“We’ve got Damani coming in as a left back. He’s an extremely talented individual but he needs time to develop. He needs experience professionally. He’s got a load of experience as a youth international, but it’s totally a different ball game at the professional level. We have a good nucleus of guys. I think it was a misconception out there that we were automatically going for a left back. I obviously couldn’t say anything because we hadn’t released that we signed Damani.”
Hackworth on playing 4-3-3
“I think we want to develop into a team that is a little bit flexible, maybe take advantage of our opponents tactically. So it’s not that we’re going to be totally set. But I think you’ll see a reoccurring theme in that we’ll have good mobility, that we want to play an attacking possession style that is built on a short passing game. We’ll try to overload one side and take advantage of some situations.”
Hackworth on where Amobi Okugo will play
“It’s still a little bit to be decided. Certainly with having Baky [Bakary Soumare] healthy and Jeff [Parke] joining us, I think you’ll see Amobi first and foremost in the midfield. His versatility is fantastic for us. It gives us a lot of tough questions for our staff. But those are the questions that any coach wants to have. He’s one of our top returning players so I expect him to be out there no matter what. But it’s a nice problem to have.”
Bakary Soumare on starting the season healthy
“It feels good starting the preseason being healthy and not having to think about the injury too much.
“I’m very motivated. The last time I really played … was mid-March in Germany. When we open the season this year, it will almost be a year. I’m very excited to be back playing with the guys.
“There’s still going to be competition [at center back]. Just because Carlos left the spot is wide open. We have to earn our spots, every single one of us … I’m excited. I’m just going to be working hard for the next five weeks and hopefully March 2nd I’ll be ready to go and all fit.”
Conor Casey on playing for the Union
“[Philadelphia's] a great opportunity for me personally to help a team, to get some new life. It’s a good group of guys just from the few days that I’ve been here. I know that they have high goals for a young team. I’m just really excited to be here, to start integrating myself with the team and getting to know the guys.”
On his health
“I feel good. Good off-season. Looking forward to having a whole preseason — I haven’t had one in a couple of years … A lot of the times if you don’t have that preseason before the season you’re chasing it throughout the season.”
Aaron Wheeler on his best traits:
“My height. My athleticism. Everyone says that I’m fast for a big guy…I play hard. I’ll do whatever I can for the team as far as tracking back, battling. My body’s the team.”
On working with small, quick forwards
“It’s a privilege. As a big man you have to love a crafty guy that can run off of you. Someone you can lay the ball off to and they can just do things with their speed.”
There was a tremendous turnout at YSC Sports in Wayne for the open session. Stay tuned for Earl Gardner’s photo essay on the day.