Hackworth takes reins for Union's big clash against LA
CHESTER, Pa. — One will be on the other side of the country. The other will be on another continent.
But even with LA Galaxy superstar David Beckham and Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak both absent for Wednesday’s PPL Park showdown (7:30 pm ET, Direct Kick and MatchDay Live), Union assistant John Hackworth doesn’t expect very much to be different.
Hackworth will be serving as head coach while Nowak plays in a charity event soccer game called “Match of the Stars” in his native Poland on Wednesday.
“Peter and I have worked together for four years, side-by-side,” Hackworth said. “I’ve been on the sideline [in charge] for games before. For either one of us, it’s not that different. This is a big game but every game in this league is a big game. From our standpoint and how we approach the game, nothing changes really.”
Considering the fact that the Union (4-2-1) have never beaten the Galaxy (4-2-4) but could surge into first place in the Eastern Conference with a win over the league’s marquee team, this certainly seems like a tough game for Nowak to miss.
But looking at the possible long-term benefits, Hackworth believes it’s a good thing for Nowak to be in Poland, alongside other former players.
“For Peter and the Philadelphia Union, it’s a great opportunity,” Hackworth said. “It’s a very prestigious game. For him to do that is great. It’s also an opportunity for us to spread the Philadelphia Union brand into Europe, and being in that kind of context it’s really important.”
As for the absence of Beckham, who was left in Los Angeles to rest because of a grueling three-games-in-one-week stretch for the Galaxy, Hackworth isn’t exactly breathing a sigh of relief.
Even though all three goals the Union have given up this season have been off set pieces — Beckham’s specialty — Hackworth still understands the difficult matchups that Landon Donovan, Juan Pablo Ángel and the rest of the Galaxy present.
“We don’t approach it like we’re going to beat David Beckham; we approach it like we want to beat the LA Galaxy,” the Union coach said. “There are always times when your opponent has an injury or there’s a different lineup or the coach chooses different tactics in a game. It doesn’t change anything for us.
“We still know we’ll be playing one of the best teams in the league,” he added. “Our expectation is they’re going to go out and play their best game.”
The Union feel like they did not give the Galaxy their best game a month ago when they dropped a 1-0 decision at the Home Depot Center, with the contest's only goal coming off a Beckham free kick. But with the club almost entirely healthy and fueled by a near-impenetrable defense, the Union are hoping to beat LA for the first time Wednesday night, in front of what should be a raucous crowd.
“We take a tremendous amount of pride how we play at home,” Hackworth said. “This is our house and we don’t want anyone to come in here and get a result.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.