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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Monday, September 24, 2012



A familiar face was seen at PPL Park twice this week.

Ryan Richter, the La Salle product from Southampton, Pa., is back with the Union as a trialist for the last two weeks, two sources confirmed.

“He’s here,” one said. “He’s a fun guy, and it’s been fun having him around again.”

A midfielder/forward, Richter spent the 2011 season with the Union despite playing only in friendlies and never in MLS competition. The Union did not pick up the 2012 option on the contract of Richter, the fifth overall selection in the 2011 supplemental draft. He was with D.C. United in February and March of this year as a trialist, though he was never signed.

Richter signed later in March with Charleston Battery, which went on to win the USL PRO championship this season. At Charleston, Richter played in 29 games with 19 starts, two goals and four assists in 1792 minutes, helping the Battery take down the Wilmington Hammerheads for the fourth title in franchise history.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Union ink Richter to another deal. He’s got the flexibility to play any field position on the pitch and he might be worth taking a risk on.

“He just wants to play,” said one Union player. “He’ll do anything to get on the field and he wants to stay here with us.”

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Sunday, September 23, 2012



Freddy Adu played 50 minutes. He scored two goals.

Call it a coincidence, but good things -- like scoring goals -- tend to occur when Adu gets consistent playing time. 

For the better part of two months, he hasn't with Union manager John Hackworth going as far as saying it's not the Union's mission as a team to make Adu a 90-minute player.

Take from that what you will, but Adu -- the Union's highest-paid player -- wants to be on the field. He said Thursday he thinks he has to play the rest of this season as though his job depends upon it. His performance Sunday, which featured a brace in the Union's 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo, certainly showed it.

On top of that, Adu's not content just to play. He wants to play the forward position, not at midfield, where he gets a majority of his PT.
“Personally, it feels good. It means a lot. Getting two goals in league play, it’s good for your confidence," Adu said after Sunday's game. 

"Especially when the coach puts you at forward, to reward the coach with two goals and for Josue (Martinez) getting the start today and getting the goal, it’s a good feeling. The team won, everybody’s happy and it just feels like it’s been a while since we won a game. 

"It’s definitely a good feeling and hopefully I’m able to stay in that position and play hopefully the rest of the games in that position."

If Adu can score a goal, or at least create goals, out of the forward position -- well -- let the man do his thing.

Extra notes from Sunday’s game:

  • Captain Carlos Valdes said he and Brian Carroll called a brief team meeting Saturday to hash out any lack of cohesiveness that was present in Thursday’s loss to D.C. “It went well,” Valdes said. Added Sheanon Williams: “Sometimes people need a kick in the (rear).”
  • Veteran defender Chris Albright, who had played only 10 minutes in MLS play since March 31, got nine minutes against Houston. “I’ve got my young kids in the stands, so it’s always fun when they get to see their dad on the field,” said Albright, who entered for Danny Cruz in the 81st.
  • John Hackworth got his first win as the full-time manager, with the interim label having been lifted from his job description earlier this month.
  • Josue Martinez scored the first goal of his MLS career.
  • Carroll’s teams have qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of his first nine seasons. Sunday, the Union were victorious, staving off playoff ineligibility – for now.

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Here’s a look at John Hackworth’s starting XI v. Houston:
GK … MacMath
DF … Williams, Valdes, Gaddis, Okugo
MF … M Farfan, Carroll, Adu, Lahoud
FW … Martinez, Cruz
Bench … Konopka, McInerney, Hoppenot, Albright, Torres, Hoffman, Daniel

One major observation on the lineup: It’s not good.

The Union have scored one goal in the last three matches, four in the last eight and they've been shut out 10 times in 27 matches. Simply put, that's not good. They're the second-lowest-scoring team in MLS.

And Hackworth's answer to that scoring drought is to throw out a lineup against the Dynamo that's bereft of Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot and Chandler Hoffman? Granted, McInerney's scoreless since July 29, Hoppenot since July 8 and Hoffman since ... ever. (The rookie's never tallied in MLS play.) 

But so what? Union employees are walking around PPL Park today wearing buttons urging fans to 'RE-DOOP FOR 2013.' Here's a safe bet: If a loss is a loss, don't you think more fans are likely to re-up their season ticket plans having seen a couple goals? That being said, sacrifice something on the defensive end. What's the worst that could happen? They lose, 4-3? Couldn't be any worse than sending the fans to their cars after watching a 1-0 defeat, like Thursday's loss to D.C.

Hackworth should've gone to a lineup with more offensive firepower than the Delaware River fireworks display from July's MLS All-Star Game. Instead, he went with balance. And there's nothing wrong with that...unless you want to convince fans to RE-DOOP for 2013.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

UNION's XI v. D.C.

Here's John Hackworth's starting XI tonight v. visiting D.C. United:

GK ... MacMath
DF ... G Farfan, Williams, Valdes, Okugo
MF ... Carroll, Gomez, Daniel
FW ... Cruz, McInerney Hoppenot
Bench ... Harrison, Gaddis, Lahoud, Torres, Adu, Martinez, Hoffman

A few notes about the lineups:
  • Keeping his word. Hackworth promised it. He said Wednesday he intended to play the kind of guys in the lineup who would help Jack McInerney end his seven-match scoreless streak. That explains why inventive and athletic players like Keon Daniel, Danny Cruz and Antoine Hoppenot are starting and Chandler Hoffman and Freddy Adu were selected as reserves. It's very clear the Union intend to make McInerney their target man moving forward. That's a commitment that anyone -- even those who aren't soccer savvy -- can see from a mile away. Now's the time to see if Hackworth's planning will pay off.
  • Look who's back in town. D.C. will start Lio Pajoy up top, with Chris Pontius playing off the former Union striker. It's Pajoy's first match at PPL Park since being traded to United last month.
  • An expectation from tonight: The Union need goals. More than one, to be honest. They have scored four in their last seven matches, and never more than once in that stretch. So there's a reason they haven't won since July 29. Look for McInerney to get one and -- oh, let's say -- Hoppenot for a second.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Here's what you can take from Union manager John Hackworth's weekly press address Wednesday:

  • Everybody's healthy.
  • Everybody's available, except Michael Farfan.
  • The desire to beat a rival hasn't faded.
  • And neither has the need to set up Jack McInerney.

The Union haven't won since July 29. So they'll take a seven-match winless streak into their date Thursday night against D.C. United. And in that win-free spell, the Union have had four goals. Four.

Hackworth made a point of saying McInerney has played well, but the club's supporting players haven't put him a position to finish. That might be the explanation for McInerney's seven-match scoring drought. (If you're doing the math at home, McInerney's inability to find the back of the net coincides with the Union's winless streak.)

"We deserve (a win) within our group," Hackworth said. "We have done an excellent job in our training and our preparation and it just hasn't translated. ... We have to protect this ground. We've been on the short end of the stick, and that's unacceptable."

And specifically having to do with putting McInerney in better positions to score...

"You'll see a little bit of a (lineup) twist tomorrow night, and you'll see some guys whose sole job is to give him that support," Hackworth said.

So who do you think to whom Hackworth was referring?

Here's who, in my opinion, it won't be: Freddy Adu (who Hackworth said took a knock Saturday at Toronto), Roger Torres (who Hackworth said has not committed to playing defense and "needs to prove to everybody that he's a 90-minute player), and Farfan (who will miss the match due to yellow-card accumulation).

My best guess is you'll see a lineup that, in any sort of configuration, includes Chandler Hoffman, Antoine Hoppenot and Keon Daniel.

Leave your guesses in the comments section.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012


Freddy Adu has taken them. So has Gabriel Gomez. Even Carlos Valdes has been given an opportunity to put his best foot forward.

The Union have tried more than a few players this season on their set pieces, turning to Adu, Gomez, Valdes and a host of others to send free kicks, corner kicks and indirect kicks into the box to create offense.

And that's the way John Hackworth likes it.

The Union manager said Wednesday during his weekly presser at PPL Park that he'd like to have a few players be available to take kicks off stoppages of play. In the past, Sebastien Le Toux had been that guy for the Union. Without Le Toux, who was traded in the offseason, it's been a carousel of characters electing to take them.

So with 14 days between games, with the Union taking on Toronto FC Saturday in Canada, Hackworth said service delivery became a focus in training.

"Our service has been better. We're working on that," he said.

"That's one thing we're trying to have ... but we still have different set pieces that are good for certain individuals," he continued. "I don't want to tell you service is going to be by any one person."

Hackworth went on to describe why Herculez Gomez was asked to take a free kick Tuesday for the U.S. national team, which resulted in the decisive goal for the USMNT in a World Cup-qualifying match against Jamaica.

"The reason Gomez took that free kick was it was his range and his distance and his teammates respected that," Hackworth said. "We have a similar situation. If we get a deadball situation in front of goal, and it's in Carlos Valdes' range, you'll see him take it. In other spots, we have other guys.

"We're trying to be more consistent. We've been erratic, to say the least."

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012


They've scored once in 351 regulation minutes. They've gone six matches without a win. They've been shut out nine times, a franchise record.

So ... what's the next step for the Union and their beleaguered offense?

If you ask John Hackworth, he thinks it's a goals-by-committee fix.

It's worse than that. The Union, with their scoreless draw in New England last weekend, have been blanked on nine occasions this season. That's worse than the eight they incurred in their inaugural season.

The likely move, per Hackworth, is to trust what you've got. That means playing third-year guy Jack McInerney (above), seasoned veteran Freddy Adu and rookies Antoine Hoppenot and Chandler Hoffman to your heart's content. That means trusting your gut with that quartet, in the hopes that those guys can find the net in a way they haven't in games gone by.

The real fix, however, is farming out the job. The Union must find goal scorer elsewhere. Their offseason add projects, in the form of Lio Pajoy and Josue Martinez, were failures. Pajoy wasn't anywhere near the goal scoring force the Union expected, or that ex-boss Peter Nowak had predicted. And Martinez, well, he can't even find his way into consistent starts.

Dating to 2011, they transferred one of MLS' most-successful goal scorers to Mexico (Carlos Ruiz), traded the franchise's best scorer for allocation money (Sebastien Le Toux) and traded another scoring threat (Danny Mwanga) for a guy marketed as a scoring threat (Jorge Perlaza), who turned out to be nothing more than a ghost in the lineup.

That's a ton of goals out the door. The remedy for the Union in the interim will come from that aforementioned foursome of young legs. The long-term fix will arrive in the offseason transfer window.

Look what Columbus did. The Crew rose from midseason irrelevance to postseason capable with the additions of Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain. They realized their flaws and went outside the franchise to correct it. The Union might have to do the same in hopes of achieving a more successful campaign in 2013.

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