Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth wants to add a striker.
The Union are considering both trades within Major League Soccer and international signings as a means of filling the need, Hackworth said Tuesday during a teleconference with media.
“Our ability to stretch the opposition with just pure speed is something we have to address,” Hackworth said.
Potential international signings would have to wait till July before they could play for the Union, because the MLS secondary transfer window doesn’t open till July 8. As a result, Hackworth said he is considering acquisitions within MLS, because they would be able to play for the Union immediately.
“I want to make sure you guys understand that the type of player we’re looking at has to be a significant dangerous attacking player,” Hackworth said. His implication was that the Union aren’t looking for a minor addition, and within MLS, that means you have to trade something — or someone — of value.
No Union player has scored in the team’s last four games. In their first seven games, the Union weren’t shut out once.
During that recent four-game streak, their opponents have often sat back and packed the middle in defense, leaving the Union openings out wide. The Union have taken those openings, but their crosses have been ineffective. For example, they completed a combined 4 of 70 crosses in the two home games of that stretch. All four of those completions came in set piece situations.
When asked about that, Hackworth said it was not the Union’s tactical plan entering those games to send in all those crosses. Rather, his players were taking those crosses as a default because those were the openings left by opponents playing very compact defensively.
For example, the Union adjusted to D.C. United’s compact play in the second half by dropping their own line to stretch United out, Hackworth said. It opened up the game but didn’t lead to a goal.
Other tactical adjustments could follow, Hackworth said. Last year, the Union often sat deep in defense and often ground out results while beating teams on the counterattack, whereas this year they have tried to play more attacking, possession-based soccer.
“I think we’re going to have to steal a little bit of what we did last year and incorporate it into this year’s team,” Hackworth said.
On the heels of a nine-game winless streak, something has to change for a team he thinks can still make the playoffs, Hackworth said.
During the teleconference, Hackworth directly answered several media questions about his job security in the wake of growing speculation that he could be replaced soon.
“I certainly heard the fans on Saturday,” Hackworth said, referencing a fan chant of “Fire Hackworth.” “It’s impossible not to hear the talk.”
Hackworth said his players were impacted by the negative fan response. When asked how, he said, “It’s harder for them to be in the stadium and hear that and put forth their best performance.”
Still, Hackworth said he and the team are focusing on matters on the field, which means executing better in both boxes.
“The first thing we did is we met as a team, and we said you can’t worry about anything that you can’t control,” Hackworth said.
The Union’s game at first place Kansas City on Wednesday looks like a very tough matchup, but it could offer a reprieve in one sense.
“The pressure comes off us in this regard,” Hackworth said, “because nobody expects us to get a result in Kansas City.”