Analysis / Union

Should John Hackworth be fired?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Should John Hackworth be fired?

Fans have been asking the question.

Some skip the question, demand the firing, and criticize anyone who disagrees.

Philadelphia Union are in the midst of what could become an epic season-ending collapse. They have:

  • not won any of their last five games;
  • scored only one goal in that stretch and not a single one in their last 310 minutes;
  • fallen from within a few points of the Supporters’ Shield to beneath the “red line” and out of a playoff spot.
  • Only four MLS clubs have fewer points in the standings.

So here’s your answer to the question of whether Hackworth should be fired:

Probably not.

Why not to fire Hackworth

On paper, the Union are who we predicted they were in preseason: A classic middle of the pack team.

The Union punched above their weight most of the season to briefly come within striking distance of the Supporters’ Shield. Three major factors determined that:

  • an excellent forward corps (Conor Casey, Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux) built by Hackworth;
  • an unusually high number of opposition red cards;
  • a generally solid back line shielded by Brian Carroll.

Then the rest of the league figured them out.

The game plan against the Union can be fairly simple:

  • Don’t get beat on the counterattack.
  • Don’t earn any red cards.
  • Hope that Le Toux’s set piece service is off, which it has been of late.

If you do those things and your midfield is better than the Union’s, which it usually is, you will win or draw.

A messy salary budget situation inherited from Peter Nowak handicapped the club from the outset. They still have not had the freedom to sign adequate midfield help. The key missing piece* remains a creative linchpin around whom to build the attack, in the model of Diego Valeri, Javier Morales, David Ferreira and Federico Higuain. Rightly or wrongly, Hackworth clearly doesn’t think Roger Torres or Kleberson is that player. Neither should be with the club next year.

Hackworth has yet to operate this club without major salary budget handicaps from the contracts of Freddy Adu and Bakary Soumare. Next year is his shot.

Why the heat should still be on

If the Union win none of their final five games, the firing question still needs to be asked, however. You can’t go from within striking distance of the Supporters’ Shield to a 10-game winless streak to end the season, particularly when two extraordinarily bad teams in Toronto and D.C. United are on the schedule. Those are must-win games.

Missing the playoffs is not a firing offense on a team that began with the significant financial handicaps that Hackworth faced. However, an epic, season-ending collapse might be.

The fact remains that Hackworth has mismanaged his midfield. Philadelphia’s midfield failures remain the primary factor holding this club back from being a championship contender.

  • Danny Cruz is not starting quality in a four-man midfield. Maybe as a winger in a 4-3-3 in which his defense is not required, but that’s it. He offers nothing to the possession game, plays soccer as a wind sprint instead of a marathon, and typically only influences a game in brief bursts.
  • Keon Daniel is good in possession and underrated in defense, but his deployment in a four-man midfield with Brian Carroll eliminates any attacking push through the center. His selection is inherently conservative. Daniel won’t lose a game for you, but he won’t win it either.
  • Michael Farfan has been so misused in so many positions that his confidence looks shot. We now know his limitations: He is a creative right-sided player who must be deployed in the right role.
  • Le Toux is an auxiliary forward with good passing vision who, if deployed in midfield, must be balanced by a possession-oriented midfielder on the opposite flank.
  • The foursome of two stay-at-home center midfielders (Daniel, Carroll) and two full-on wingers (Le Toux, Cruz) has been a disjointed, disconnected and ineffective mess.

Hackworth has stuck with a midfield rotation of Le Toux, Cruz, Daniel, Carroll and Farfan because he clearly does not think his other midfielders have much of a future. I disagree with that choice, but I understand it.

Hackworth’s long view

Hackworth is a patient, long-term thinker whose primary goals over the last year and a half were to stabilize a club that his predecessor devastated last year, consistently deploy a competitive team, and develop a nucleus of young talent and veteran leaders. He has accomplished those goals.

On the flip side, his long-term approach is probably why he failed to make necessary lineup changes once other teams figured the Union out. The thought was probably, “We may not impress anyone, but maybe we can continue keeping games close and then pull out a win or draw on a Le Toux set piece, quick counterattack or opposition red card.” That’s not unreasonable. It worked most of the year. And what’s the point of inserting a player (Kleberson, Torres) who won’t be here next year if your best case scenario might be an immediate playoff exit?

By hewing too close to that vision, however, Hackworth failed to seize an opportunity. Few predicted Casey and McInerney would play as well as they have, McInerney’s current cold streak notwithstanding. The Union suddenly had one of the league’s best striker tandems and a solid defense, but Hackworth failed to capitalize on it. In a year without dominant clubs, a competitive midfield could have put the Union among the league’s elite, even with an inexperienced goalkeeper in Zac MacMath.

That’s what has fans so frustrated. An opportunity was missed. (Also, this is Philadelphia, where we brutalize players and coaches.) And the soccer has been ugly.

Do observers overestimate the quality of Kleberson and Torres? Possibly. But few outsiders would bury Torres as completely as Hackworth has. You can’t tell me Torres didn’t show enough in practice — practice??? — when everyone saw his excellent performance in preseason games and his past (albeit inconsistent) quality in 2010 and 2011.

Do outsiders underestimate the Union’s lack of salary budget flexibility? Probably, although one wonders if the $209,000 spent on Fabinho, Gilberto and Yann Ekra would have been better spent on a proven creative fulcrum.

Do fans bash Hackworth too much for conservative tactics and lineup selections? Maybe not, but if he had gambled on the beautiful game without adequate talent to play possession ball like Portland or Salt Lake, things might have been Toronto-style worse.

Most of Hackworth’s player acquisitions have worked out. Even if you criticize some, it’s hard to deny he has played the general manager game well when you consider his acquisitions of Le Toux, Casey and Jeff Parke and development of Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney. (Yes, this might mean Hackworth is more GM material than coach material, but that’s a case for another column.)

And Hackworth has returned a semblance of respectability to the organization, which should not be underestimated in Nowak’s wake.

Plus, the critics forget one thing: The Union aren’t out of the playoff race yet. If the Union somehow make the playoffs despite the team’s salary budget problems, you can’t deny Hackworth the opportunity to show what he can do next year without those obstacles.

But next year is put up or shut up time. I don’t care what your record is. Ugly soccer is not acceptable.

97 Comments

  1. Early in the season, during the SOB/Front Office meeting we were told the 5yr plan was to win the Cup. Based on what he has shown (tactically and getting the most out of his players) we will not. Move him to the FO and let’s get a real Manager (like they have in Portland and other places).

  2. I like to believe I hate Hackworth as much as anyone, and I fully believe he is in over his head and is a moron.
    That being said, I also don’t want to become one of those those type of teams that have a new coach every 1.5 years and never are able to get off the ground. Unless the next Caleb Porter appears and wants to coach here, I wouldn’t want Hackworth fired until he had atleast one more full season here.

  3. Not yet but next year is a make it or break it year. The main problem I have with Hack other then the starting line ups is the complete predictability of Hack’s substitutions. Depending on the starting line up I can tell you with 85 to 90% accuracy who the subs will be regardless of situation

    • My daughter and I play this game each week. Once the second half rolls around, we predict who is on, who is off, and the time the change will happen.

      • BigT That SOB says:

        Without revealing my source of inside info, I can tell you that he plans his substitutions prior to each match and writes them out on the white board in the locker room.

      • Now all I have to do is get access to that whiteboard and I can beat my daughter in our little game every week! *insert maniacal laughter here*

  4. I think Hackworth’s pickups have been good enough to give him another year in charge of the Union. He’s done well with limited resources, and he has moved expensive pieces. The Union are going to be setup to make serious moves next year.
    .
    Another priority will be locking up Okugo and McInerney to new contracts. MacMath will also be coming off of Generation Adidas. Hopefully sales of Valdes and Pfeffer will help with this process.
    .
    Hackworth’s in-game management is extremely frustrating most of the time, but we need to realistic and recognize that this team does not have a lot of talent in the midfield (the mind-boggling exclusion of Kleberson withstanding).
    .
    MLS is a league where fortunes can change dramatically year to year. As fans, we should demand a contender in 2014. There won’t be any excuses for Hackworth, and if they fail to make the playoffs, he should be fired.

  5. they should all be fired for promising “attacking and attractive” soccer. i cant stand the “maybe next year” approch. we all see the games and see its not good enough. FIRE.

  6. My answer would be no as I believe that the club is trying to function on a very low budget basis and Hackworth has been trying to make Hamburger Helper without the meat.

    However, if for some reason that isn’t true, both he and Vartughian should go as the roster is so limited and poorly constructed.

    I think that the team’s plan (even though they didn’t openly express it) was to just get through this year by cleaning up the problems that Nowak had created, not making any major mistakes with the hope that their young players could develop here and in Harrisburg. Then in 2014, they could make more significant moves to try and push the club forward.

    I’m not saying that I either agree or disagree with this approach, I just think this is what their thought process was.

  7. really shouldn’t have been given more than a one year contract last year but such is the way of the union FO. i suppose we’ll see next year but i’d still rather the union not eat a bunch of money to buy him out. not sure i’d call 15th out of 19 “middle of the pack”.

    • Come on. “Such is the way of the Union FO.” Really? I think what you mean is, “such is the way of sports.” Name me one coach who would even consider a one year contract – not counting tacking on an extension to a previous deal.

      • well this year in mls we have marco schällibaum with the montreal impact who was offered a further contract provided he made the playoffs. schällibaum actually has a top flight head coaching experience as well which would put him a step ahead of hackworth when he was signed.

      • Thanks. That’s an interesting case. My hunch is he got the one year because of his history of bouncing around. Although I actually didn’t get direct confirmation via a google search*, I did find articles that said he was offered an extension for next year as early as July. So that very implicitly says he’s working on a one year deal. Interesting.
        .
        * I will admit my google-fu is weak.

    • You normally wouldn’t, but this year, you have 11 teams with between 38 and 45 points. The Union are 1 win out of 5th place. So they’re pretty firmly middle of the pack.

  8. I don’t think he should be fired now, but he has a lot of work to do to gain back my trust and respect. I was really starting to back him when he made his comments about 6 spots being available after the San Jose game, but when he made the only obvious addition (Okugo) and took out Jack when there were other choices who should’ve sat I lost all faith in Hackworth. The result against Houston confirmed my fears.
    In order for me to back John Hackworth next year and beyond he needs to show me 2 things:
    1. He trusts the talent of the team and players and gives someone a shot when another player is underperforming, or the team has become stagnant and predictable. If he keeps the same 11 every week because he feels they’re really his best 11 players that’s one thing, but to not give anyone else even a chance to see if they earn more time is not only confusing but infuriating. Hoppenot’s continued substitution at the hour mark leads me to number 2:
    2. He can read and react to the flow and style of the game, and not decide on substitutions an hour before the game starts. Hoppenot has never been the best player on the bench this season – maybe the best option at times, but not the best player – yet, like Cruz, he continues to be Hack’s go-to guy regardless of the situation, opponent, or scoreline (he came in up 3-0 and a man against NY, when the situation was perfect for a Torres, or Wheeler or Fernandes to get valuable playing time against a time that was already beaten.) Wheeler, Anding and Fernandes have all shown promise at times, but it seems whatever they do there is little chance for them to earn more playing time. Hackworth doesn’t need to earn my trust, but I hope he doesn’t lose the trust of the locker room by giving no other players a chance.

    • Kevin Kinkead / philadelphia union says:

      This idea that “six” spots were open for the Houston game is incorrect

      The comment was a facetious/joke reply to a reporter’s follow-up question. It was not literal and it was taken out of context.

      -Kevin K

      • i mean, it’s obvious that hackworth saying any spots are open is a joke, right?

      • Oh, well now I have no idea whether I can believe anything he says or not. Clearly it was a joke since he didn’t make any real change other than bringing Okugo back into the lineup.
        I wonder how the players liked being called out in the press conference then.

  9. For most of the year the idea of firing Hackworth was not something I was in favor of. I have lost a lot of confidence in his abilities over the past month or two with his unwillingness to change the lineup despite the pretty steep decline in results. It would not bother me one bit if he was fired. I think they probably shouldn’t fire him though; this team shouldn’t become one of those horrible messes with a revolving door on the coach’s office.

    .

    Next year needs to be something. We need to stop playing a boring mess of a style. He will have at least one maybe two (if we miss the playoffs) pretty high first round picks to work with. Ekra and Gilberto, who are supposed to be long term projects, will maybe pay off in some way. Pfeffer will be back from playing a year in Germany. We will be without Kleberson and hopefully some others to get some cap relief. If Cruz and Daniel are both handed starting positions next season I think my entire body will explode in a cloud of white hot frustration.

  10. This is one of the smartest articles that has been written on this subject. Anyone with perspective, particularly one who understands how hard it is to change the perception, dogma, and direction of a group of people, can see that this situation needs another full year to blossom before anyone can make definitive decisions. Though watching the U has been awful the last month or so, anything worth doing takes time and Hack hasn’t had enough yet to know whether he’s the man for the job or not.

  11. Is there any chance that Valdez comes back and stays allowing okugo back into the midfield which removes Carroll

  12. The problem with Hackworth is his complete inability to manage a team. The only reason we were in conversations about playoffs all year was JackMac’s form and the constant man advantages we had. Even then we were under-performing and were not taking advantages of all out opportunities. Suddenly all service dries up and JackMac can’t score and shit hits the fan. Out midfield is horrible. Everyone can see that. Everyone, other than Hackworth that is. We have one of the most creative center midfielders in the league, a DP, on the bench and Hack acts like he doesn’t exist. And now that we are spiraling out of control, Hackworth refuses to admit that maybe his midfield is the problem.

    Torres looks great in preseason? Never give him a chance. No service? Sub in a forward. Struggling midfielder that starts every game does nothing? Bring in another struggling midfielder that has done nothing all year to replace him.

    It’s like watching a train crash in slow motion.

    Just because people think he can bring in the right players or whatever, that does not mean he can put the team in the best position to win, and that’s what matters. If better managed, this team could be doing better right now. Attendance has been dropping yearly and if they don’t do something, the Union will continue to lose support.

  13. Excellent piece — evenhanded and right on target.

    U.S. Presidents always blame the last guy for the mess the country’s in, but sometimes they’re right. Analogously, Nowak’s epic dismemberment of the team is still having repercussions that will take until this off-season to completely wash away. Given those limitations, Hackworth’s acquisitions have been strong. For example, it looks like Fabinho was a good pick-up (given the salary restrictions the team is under). The major pre-season ones are covered in this write-up.

    At the same time, many of Hackworth’s lineup and gameday decisions have been absolutely head-scratching and, frankly, hard to justify.

    Bottom line: he’s done some things well, and some things not well. He is a young coach, and maybe he’s still learning. But the team needs some stability. I would give him one more year.

  14. I definitely give him one more year. Otherwise we become TFC South.

  15. Remember back to how novak would always be changing players every game, not letting the team have a chance to work together. This season feels like the pendulum has swung to the polar opposite with the same guys all the time – let’s get closer to the middle.

    Go Union! Psyched for a Friday Night win.

  16. I find it hard to work up much vitriol against Hack. He’s clearly in over his head, and is only where he is because of Nowak’s implosion, and the immediate breath of fresh air that resulted after Piotr was gone.

    But even though I think he is not qualified for or effective in his position, I don’t really think it makes much difference if Hack stays or goes if management continues down their path. Sugarman seems determined to own a “small market” team, which means .500/playoff qualification mediocrity will always be viewed as an accomplishment. In that light, Hack is as good as anyone.

  17. The one I want to see leave the organization first is not Hackworth, it’s Sakiewicz.

  18. If the Unions money problems were so dire and if Baky Soumare was part of those troubles, why did Baky have to initiate his own trade? Were we content to sit on his salary all year knowing we had cash problems? If we were willing to sit him all year why did we eat some of his salary to get him to Chicago? Why didn’t we take players back who could help us?

    Why are we signing 24 year olds from lower Brazilian leagues we have no intention to start? are they going to get any better not playing between the ages of 24 and 25? Why sign him now? Would hr be not available next training camp when he is a “Player of the Future.”

    Why sign LeToux when you probably knew you has no place for him just when the fanbase had more or less accepted Jack Mac as his replacement?

    Did you piss away all of that fabled allocation money trying to undo all of the damage you did getting that allocation money?

    For decisions where does the buck ultimately stop? Who is in charge?

    • I can take guesses at answers for two of your questions:
      .
      “If we were willing to sit him all year why did we eat some of his salary to get him to Chicago?”
      .
      Because getting partial relief is better than no relief.
      .
      “Why sign LeToux … ?”
      .
      This one is easy. It was purely a PR move. You could also make the argument that they expect McInerney to be gone soon – sold or signing elsewhere – and so Le Toux is actually signed to be Mac’s replacement, in an odd sort of balance-to-the-force way.

      • If we were going to sell Macinerny it would a greater indictment of the Union than the handling of the Soumare situation would ever be.

      • I didn’t say it would be a good thing. But I do believe his contract is coming up. If they’re as cheap as we think, he might be on the way out.

      • LeToux was PR, but it shows the team can be really wishy washy in its approach and that isn’t good. When the Flyers shocked everyone and traded Carter and Richards they did it quick and without mercy deciding to ride Giroux. When the Union brought back Letoux they knew they had Jack(and Casey). Promote the hell out of the kid, that is what you pay your PR people for he is your future.

      • Jack is out of here either way. I can’t see Jurgen Klinsmann going to him and saying. “Wow that is a great organization they have there in Philly, they are using you in the best way possible, you are sure to maximize your talents there. Sign the longest extension possible.”

      • Right, that was the point I was trying to get. I’d be surprised for Jack to be here much longer.

    • Regarding Baky, I think the Union had to make him want to leave by making him a back-up. Then, they had the ultimate excuse to the fan base in saying that “Baky asked for this trade and didn’t want to be here.”

  19. Question: Overlooking everything that is horrible about Bowak…the abuse, the megalomania, the shady dealings, the white slavery, the selling heroin to grade schoolers, Everything. the question remains does the team fold so easily and completly in August and September under Nowak? Do they put in such flat, lifeless performances against beatable teams? Would Nowak have them, superfuckingcrazytown lineups and all better prepared to than Hackworth?

  20. OneManWolfpack says:

    My take: Hack is a great developer of talent. Not a great manager of a game/team. I think that is where he struggles. His experience with the youth (U-17’s… etc) prove that’s where his strength is. As a manager you have to select the right starting 11 and if things aren’t working have the courage to try new things and find what works. Hack does not do that. He starts the same 11 game in and game out.
    .
    He has to be commended for bringing stability to this team. That was something that had to happens and it did.
    .
    I would rather see this team try to sign #10 next year and have it not work out than play with what we have.
    .
    If this team isn’t in the playoffs next year Hack must go. I think he gets one more year to show he can manage, especially if the address their needs in the offseason. Then he will have no excuse.

  21. OneManWolfpack says:

    Also, we’ll see how serious this ownership is when they have money to spend… aka next year. If it’s more, “plan for the future BS” then we’ll know what’s going on. So far it’s starting to smell like that that… it doesn’t reek yet, but the smell is there.

  22. No,
    but his predictability need to be adressed.

  23. There is one problem that has carried over from the Nowak era to the new one is the problem of the team one of personnel? Of Coaching? Is it Nick Sakawitcz? (At this point I consider him a useless sock puppet of the ownership group) Our broke ass, yet still millionaire, ownership group? The city of Chester? (Cyke it’s not Chester, but if the ownership group thought they could get away with blaming Chester for the teams poor play, they would have already.) You never know who is responsible for what and who is making what decision and why? Even when those decisions seem to be at cross purposes, Even when they make no sense.
    /
    Hack has made some really poor decisions but it is sometime hard to determine what decisions are his and what decisions that are made through him.
    /
    I think the teams development of young players is overrated. Okugo should be in the midfield, we botched both Farfans, Gaddis is floundering out of position, We were well on our way to botching MacMath, our team can’t find a place for Torres, Two words: Danny Cruz, and is there anyone in our system we are excited about other than Aaron Wheeler: King of the Bros. (who we were considering converting to Center Back for some reason.)
    /
    Ok I think I’m done.

  24. I say give him another year, if it doesn’t work out we find a new manager. However, we should Hackworth around due to his proven ability with youth, so maybe hire him as a U-16 or U-18 coach. I’m sure he could still contribute to our organization, just in a different role.

  25. Hack should not get the sack.

    He deserves another year. He has done well with what he has been given. His acquisitions on a tight budget are of high value. He got a big man target (Casey), a former fan favorite (Le Toux), a Valdes replacement (Parke), a true left back (Fabinho), and he got rid of Adu. Grade of A for acquisitions IMO given the budget and financial turmoil. Player development gets a B- because he saw the talent in Jack Mack and Okugo. He gave them starting jobs and coupling Jack with Casey has been brilliant. He even converted Le Toux to a winger which was not possible from his first stint in Philly. Game day tactics and player selection he gets a C-. It’s a bit too predictable and he really didn’t give anyone outside of the starting 14 players that see the majority of the time a shot. I gave C- because he is handicapped by a lack of quality midfield and we were in a playoff hunt. You don’t give unproven players a starting spot in a playoff hunt, it just doesn’t happen nor should it. Also his tactics are a result of player quality. He’s trying to make due with what he has at the moment and again a playoff hunt is pretty good for this team.

    The team has been above expectations for this season IMO. They were mid table going in and I expected to be just below the red line the whole year. I hope we can still make a go of it. I’ll only be disappointed if we completely poop the bed.

    • Nowak was actually the one that started playing Okugo at CB. He did it for the US Open Cup match shortly before he was canned.

  26. Hack should go.

    The team is on a slide and, what’s worse, is that they never really impressed us with their quality when things were good. Hack really doesn’t inspire confidence that he can pull things together. Instead, he insists that the U are just unlucky and don’t have any real issues. That’s hard to take as it is completely different from my own assessment.

    The U and Danny Cruz will improve at about the same rate if Hack stays. Time for a change.

  27. If he goes to KC, plays for a draw and loses they should leave him there.

    Also, what’s the shelf-life on blaming Nowak? Will the Hack apologists dip into that well again next year?

    • Until the salary budget problems are mostly gone. So next year.

      But it’s not blaming Nowak or apologizing for Hackworth. It’s analyzing and explaining the situation. It’s context. The salary budget problems were real. The team culture was a mess. The locker room had no veteran leaders, save perhaps Carroll. How can you ignore these issues when considering the job Hackworth has done?

      It’s like not factoring in Colorado’s early injury problems when evaluating Oscar Pareja for coach of the year. Is it Pareja, Kreis or Porter? You could argue that Pareja had the toughest obstacles to overcome and therefore put in the best performance when you consider the results.

      • Speaking of Carroll – anybody know his contract status for next season? Is he still under contract, or is this year his last year?

    • I think that ship has sailed

    • I was actually thinking along the lines earlier in the day. What can they offer the fanbase this year to get them back. They brought back Letoux last year. Califf isn’t coming back. Tha academy isn’t of any interest to the casual fan and it will be years before we see any payoff, Free parking won’t cut it especially seeing they raised prices ever so subtly this year. That is why I think the playoffs are a bigger deal this year than they let on. If not what is it they can put before the fans and say hey look we are doing this!
      That is how Hackworth may get fired, he may be a sacrificial lamb for a bump in season tickets.

    • @Handsome Pete-

      Perfectly Played.

      Columbus fires the coach mid season, and will probably make the playoffs.

      We keep flogging the dead horse, and do not make the playoffs.
      Mr. Walsh was correct, they should have realized that they had a contender after the first 5 games, Casey was at least 90%, and should have gone for it all. Thought that was what was happening when Kleberson was signed…sigh.

  28. Southside Johnny says:

    I hate myself for writing this, but I think promoting Hackworth was a reasonable decision made in the midst of chaos. He provided transitional stability and with so many young guys and huge PR problems they needed to do as much as possible along those lines. I probably would have done the same thing under the circumstances (although Le2 is another matter altogether).That said, I hope the “long range plan” is to shop and court an upgrade over the coming season. I would like nothing better than for him to turn things around with personnel and his coaching, but I don’t think it will happen before peace in the Middle East. Like others, I have grave doubts about the ownership and FO as well as Hack’s assistants. Does anyone in the organization ever hit him with a “Dude, WTF were you thinking??!” text? There’s plenty of blame to go around. So, I guess we (choke) cling to our slender shreds of sanity and go another year hoping for the best and fearing the worst.

  29. I see two themes in the “c’mon give he guy a chance!” comments:
    1) He’s a good evaluator/ developer of talent and he’s brought in players
    2) He’s done a good job with what he’s been given.

    Which is it? We credit him as building this team (Cruz, Parke,Casey, LeToux Part Deux) and absolve him for what he’s been given (Okugo,Zac,Jack, Farfan), who are also nominally the young talent he’s doing a great job of developing. Can you pick one narrative and stick with it?

    Yes, they punched above their weight and could’ve been contenders. What a magical ride it was. I picked them 7th in the preseason article, always felt that they were a mirage of luck, but, but, when the East showed that no one wanted to grab the division by the throat, I thought it was there for the taking. And Hacktics dictated never changing, predictability, and lost opportunity. And that reason is why he should be fired.

    Though frankly, how he handled Adu preseason, the fact all of that AM went to it Torres (making him potentially the most expensive piece we have) and letting him rot, and only playing Kleberson when forced to, those should be considered too.

  30. I think intuitively we all know that keeping him means another year of the same. Seriously, dig deep into your psyche. I know we all want to believe, but let’s face it, this conversation will simply resurface 12 months from now. The interim tag never should have been lifted and that’s not to say he doesn’t have a place in the organization. Also, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, the only teams in the Eastern conference that have won less games than the Union so far this season is DC and TFC.

  31. Who would you rather have?

    Stevie Nicol
    Eric Wynalda
    Robert Warzycha
    John Spencer
    Hans Backe
    Frank Yallop
    Jesse Marsch

    All feel like an upgrade.

    • I would take Marsch; maybe Yallop. No thanks to the rest. Marsch seemed pretty shrewd; i felt like it was harsh he was fired so quickly

    • How many of those guys do you think would be able to work with Nick Sak?

    • Warzycha’s teams regressed every year in Columbus. Backe wasted his young players, and his NY team underachieved. Yallop finished in the top half of his conference once in his recent five-year tenure with San Jose. Spencer played Route 1 soccer in Portland and got fired for it. You can find things wrong with many candidates if you look close enough.

      • You don’t have to look hard Dan, they’ve all been fired at some point. Nowak won silverware for DC and we fired him. Point is there are plenty of better coaches with experience around, why do we have to suffer Hacks learning curve?

    • Guys, it’s irrelevant. Hack will not be fired.

      • Curt Onalfo will probably start garnering some interest from teams looking for head coaches. I know that he got fired by Vermes in KC, but Vermes was the technical director in charge of personnel and he ultimately ended up cleaning house anyway so the blame shouldn’t be solely on Onlafo.

  32. Good pickups?

    I still think Le Toux was a marketing decision first and a soccer move second. For the first time in his career, he actually put his midfield game together.

    Casey fell into Hack’s lap. It’s not as if the move required significant scouting or insight. He literally fell into our laps in a draft. Everyone called that move.

    Also, you forget about Okai, Damani Richards, Mendoza, and Kassel. The moves that actually required foresight tended to fail.

    Also, Hack did not develop Jack or Amobi. Both lit it up on the youth international level and were known prospects. the difference is Hack, unlike Nowak, actually played them. There is a big difference between playing a player and actually developing them into soccer players.

  33. Build a bonfire, throw Hackworth on top,put the FO in the middle…

    He’s a practice coach and he puts out practice players. The whole organization is a joke. This Season and our playoff chances were a mirage, they never really existed. Anyone who was there for Nowak’s nonsense obviously doesn’t know what they are doing.

    5 years no cups

  34. Dan, I’ve followed your defense of the guy. I’ve appreciated the people he’s brought in (excepting Cruz, and for me, Le Toux). In the end, where does Hack fit into the idea that American soccer is maturing into a game that values technique and tactics over muscle and hustle? I don’t think he does.

    I would rather watch Wigan get relegated with style, than Stoke stay up with studs up. And I don’t like watching Hack’s team. It’s worse when I have to root for them.

    • Very good question. If he can’t fit into that idea once he’s given the opportunity to work with a full salary budget, then you probably have to look for a different manager. I generally agree with you on the Wigan/Stoke debate.

    • I find it hard to introduce friends to soccer VIA the Union because the games are so bad and boring.
      I swear after watching a Union game they never want to watch soccer again.

  35. Southside Johnny says:

    Crap soccer is only fun to watch if your 4 year old kid is playing.

  36. I think we can all agree that Hackworth does not make lineup or gametime decisions to appease the fanbase. For that reason alone, it makes him a better than average coach.
    .
    I don’t think you can judge a manager in anything less than 2-3 seasons. Look at Sir Alex Ferguson – horrible his first year at Aberdeen. Give the guy a year or two more at least. He’s made positive signings and in my opinion has put out the best lineups and game tactics given the players at his disposal.

    • So continually playing Cruz despite the fact that every fan with half a brain knows he is not quality, makes Hackworth an above average coach? When he dribbles into a black whole, falls over and gives up the ball leaving the defense out to dry, is that good strategy? Hackworth values hustle above all else, which would make him a good high school coach. Does the FO making shit moves against the fans wishes, also make them above average? Anyway F’ above average, WE WANT CUPS!

  37. The two biggest arguments for Hackworth not being manager are lineup decisions and in game changes/substitutions, since those are the two things a manager has direct control over. He does not have control over roster, budget, etc, for the most part.
    .
    Looking at those two things, hack does terrible with in game changes and subs, I don’t know who would argue against that.
    .
    Lineups: he has done some good: Casey, Mac, Okugo, Fabinho. Although it’s really worrisome how he’s handled Jack lately.
    However he has done some tremendously bad. Keon, Cruz, Messing with Marfan, Letoux on the left (or in midfield at all?), never letting Okugo even attempt DM. But, most glaringly of all, in the midst of one of the most horrendous midfield seasons of any team in recent memory, nothing different is really tried?
    .
    This, to me, is why hack should go. Also, his attitude about games is really negative and not the right way to be, and I fear it permeates the whole locker room.

  38. This is a good, fair-minded piece, but I would definitely disagree with this part:

    “The missing piece remains a creative linchpin around whom to build the attack, in the model of Diego Valeri, Javier Morales, David Ferreira and Federico Higuain.”

    I don’t disagree that the Union could use a player like that. But I do disagree that the Union just need one player to address their problems. How do I know that? Well, look at FC Dallas and Columbus! They have those great players, and they’re still just barely on the edge of the playoffs. Put Ferreira on the Union right now and you’d have…another version of Dallas. Blas Perez is a wash with Casey. Castillo is a wash with Cruz. Michel and LeToux, you get deadball service. Give the Union “that one piece” and they’re better in the East, sure, but the point of all of this is to win trophies, and they’d still not be good enough to compete with the Seattles or RSLs.

    Portland and RSL aren’t elite MLS teams just because of Morales and Valeri (though of course they are important). Those teams have coherent midfield play across the board, with talent like Nagbe, Will Johnson, Beckerman and Luis Gil to augment what their midfield maestros do. Crucially, they have GM’s and head coaches that can build a program with a defined style, roles and responsibilities. And they’re fun to watch because of it.

    I’m not convinced Hackworth is the guy to get us there. For all his experience with the U17’s, let’s remember that those teams did not do particularly well, despite the US producing some pretty good talent in that period (Hack left guys like Altidore, Omar, Subotic, and Shea on the bench behind guys like Preston Zimmerman, Amaechi Igwe and Danny Cruz), and wound up losing to teams like Tunisia and Tajikistan in 2007. Take a look at those rosters, folks – not a lot of those kids made it as pros.

    I wouldn’t say that missing the playoffs should definitely mean that Hack gets the axe, but but I don’t think it’s out of the question, either. There’s no use in giving a guy more time if that time will be applied to a doomed strategy.

    • Point well taken. I agree in large part. I probably should have written “key missing piece” instead of just “missing piece.” (I’ve just edited the post to add “key” there.) Very good comment.

  39. After reading the summary of Hackworth’s press conference and the fact hat he is still going on about those 3 goals let me throw in a vote for intangibles. It seems like either the team comes in flat or withers at the first whiff of adversity.
    Where does that come from if not from the head coach who sets the tone for the club. Especially on a club with such young guys.

  40. He needs to go! I have said it before, he is not a manager and should have just been an interim replacement at best. He is a broken record of clichés and tired talking points. He has no pregame or in game adjustment skills. He has a U-17,20 approach to managing and has shown no ability to grow. This team is the absolute worst team to watch and I am beginning to wonder if even the players are tired of his voice and are starting to tune him out. MLS teams know how to beat the Union especially in big games. Again at the beginning of training camp glaring weaknesses were either not addressed or just simply ignored. The philosophy of this organization leaves me cold. I don’t see them doing anything but being money changers. I have read all the justifications on this page and it still comes down to what this organization trots out on to the field game in and game out. It’s atrocious. Hackworth, Sakiewicz, and the owners ship are second rate. It does not mean that they are bad people, they just aren’t worthy of what this region has waited so long for. Hackworth and Saiewicz need to go and FO changes are badly needed. Hackworth has been with the organization from the beginning so I don’t think he merits another year. He was brought in as a quick fix. After this season whether they make the playoffs or not, Hackworth needs to go. Too many times this team was points away from 1st place and they gave games away. No More!!

  41. Nothing will change next year and the same article will be written with the same vigor from both sides of the fan base. THIS is the definition of insanity!!!!!!!

  42. The Fact that we are discussing this seriously at all means that he should go at the end of the season.

    Player development and training seem to suit him.

    Btw- (lol) Sir Alex needs work…

    Surely, there must be some European Coach who would like to come and live in the US for a while ?

    Worked for Klinsmann….

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