The Inside Doop: What went wrong?
When John Hackworth took over as head coach for Peter Nowak three weeks ago, the Philadelphia Union began to look better on the field while creating more good feelings off of it.
But despite that, the Union have still struggled to win games consistently, as evidenced most recently by their disheartening 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
What went wrong for the Union as they dropped to 3-9-2 on the season and 1-2 in league games since Hackworth took over? Let’s take a look back – and then a look ahead to what’s next – in this week’s “Inside Doop.”
Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. The turning point of the game was obviously the call that led to the game-winning penalty kick goal from Brian Ching late in the second half. Was it a good call? Probably not. Should it have mattered? People seem to fall into two camps on this issue, with some saying the Union should have done more to make sure it didn’t and others complaining about the referees’ power to make game-changing calls on questionable plays like this one. In this particular case, I fall more into the camp of the latter, although I respect Hackworth for what he said afterwards …
2. Instead of complaining about the call, Hackworth chose to focus on his team’s own shortcomings. Namely, he critiqued the fact that the Union failed to capitalize on a couple of easy chances to pull ahead 2-1 just minutes after tying the game early in the second half. It’s probably not a coincidence that the missed opportunities happened with Jack McInerney – a striker that knows how to finish and someone that’s come alive under Hackworth – missed the game due to illness.
3. One of the bright spots for the Union was on Keon Daniel’s goal as the midfielder scored on an impressive left-footed blast from distance. Hackworth later said the coaches have been encouraging Daniel to shoot more. But it will be interesting to see if the goal helps Daniel stay in the regular rotation, considering Saturday marked his first start under Hackworth and that the Union already have a crowded midfield.
Three questions for the upcoming week
1. The Union’s defense has been strong recently, having not surrendered more than one goal in a league match since May 13. In fact, the Union have only given up 17 goals all season, which ranks third in MLS. But the unit will face one of their biggest tests of the season Wednesday with a difficult road matchup against Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the rest of the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, who have scored three goals in each of the past three games. Will the Union’s defense crack in California?
2. Hackworth did some lineup and formational changes in Houston, in part to give some players’ rest during a grueling stretch. The main players who sat out were Freddy Adu and McInerney, two of the main cogs in the 4-3-3 system that had worked so well for the Union in their last two contests coming into Houston. If McInerney is feeling better, Hackworth will likely insert those two back in the lineup against the Galaxy. But after a bout with food poisoning, will the young strike be ready to go in time for the game?
3. It’s too early to talk about must-win games but if the Union can’t get any points against the Galaxy and then lose to Toronto on Sunday, they will be in last place in the Eastern Conference at almost the halfway point in the season. There will still be time, of course, to put together a winning streak but at what point, if at all, do they stop believing that making the playoffs is a possibility?
Fact of the week:
With his goal Saturday, Keon Daniel became only the sixth Union player to score through 14 league games this season. Last year they had 16 different goal-scorers.
Quote of the week:
“We had two chances to put the ball on frame and their sitters really. They have to be finished. Those are the critical moments of the game.” – Union interim manager John Hackworth
Player of the week:
Amobi Okugo continues to shine at center back and gets the nod this week. The third-year player didn’t make any mistakes and made one possibly goal-saving tackle in the penalty area.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for CSNPhilly.com and MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.