Union seek redemption against Toronto
Watch out Toronto FC, this isn’t Peter Nowak’s Union.
Coming off a stunning 2-1 stoppage-time win over the defending MLS Champion LA Galaxy on Wednesday, the Union, led by coach John Hackworth, are a much different team than the one that lost to winless Toronto FC in a listless fashion on May 26.
The Union are looking to show how much they’ve grown since that 1-0 defeat, when they host Toronto on Sunday at PPL Park.
“It’s a season-changer,” said Union striker Jack McInerney, after the win over the Galaxy. “We can build off this and maybe with a couple home games we can string a few wins together and we’re right back into the playoff race.”
The Union were a very different group when Toronto handed them their most devastating in franchise history. While the score wasn’t lopsided, the loss ushered in the realization that the struggling Union weren’t just hitting a painful patch, but were actually the worst team in MLS.
The Union have been remodeling their franchise and climbing back toward competitive relevance ever since.
“The biggest thing is I am trying to get these guys to believe in themselves,” said Hackworth, now 2-2-0 as the Union manager. “It is a young locker room, I think we are the youngest team in the league, if I am not mistaken, and they can play. We have the ability to fight and battle but we can also play quality soccer and that is what we are trying to do. When we all believe that there is a little bit of confidence that comes with that and then you get a result like this on the road in a crazy tough atmosphere against the defending champions, it is a massive win for us.”
Despite playing their best, most invigorated soccer of the season, the Union aren’t taking their 2-10-4 oppoents lightly. Powered by Danny Koevermans, who has six goals in his last seven games, Toronto FC has gone undefeated since June 20 and are 1-0-4 since then.
“We can’t get too confident,” said Michael Farfan, who scored the game-winner in the 95th minute against the Galaxy. “We know Toronto doesn’t have many points but we know they’re not as bad as their points show, so I think we have to be ready to play just like any other game, just like this game.
“I think whatever game we come into we have to look at it like we have to get the three points, especially at home.”
The biggest change for the Union comes in the form of confidence. The young club has featured players like McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot, who didn’t get time under Nowak, but are now succeeding with energy and hunger.
“I can’t put it on one specific thing,” said McInerney on the change in the Union’s approach. “I think there’s been a lot of effort there and I think Coach [Hackworth] taking over has been a good change for us. There’s a sense of relief and it’s good for us to get a fresh coach.”
With confidence comes offense, and McInerney is bringing it. The 19-year-old striker, who turns 20 on August 5, has three goals in four games since being placed in a scoring role. Striker Lionard Pajoy has a goal and two assists in his last three games and the team as a whole produced seven goals in four games since Hackworth took over.
“I think we’re finally getting a little luck on our side,” said McInerney, whose team is 4-9-2 and primed to climb the standings. “We’ve always put ourselves in good positions and created good opportunities but we haven’t had that little bit of luck and I think we’re getting it now.”E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@gmail.com