Hackworth: First-half collapse vs. Fire "my responsibility"

Sheanon Williams and Chris Rolfe

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CHESTER, Pa. – John Hackworth is blaming himself.

His Philadelphia Union players aren’t buying it.

Shortly after dropping a disheartening 3-1 decision to the Chicago Fire that dimmed the Union’s flickering playoff hopes, Hackworth stepped up to the podium and pointed the finger mostly at his own coaching.

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“This was an extremely disappointing match by the Philadelphia Union,” Hackworth said. “It’s not the kind of performance that is acceptable to us in any way, shape or form. That said, I think I have to take some responsibility for that result as well. I don’t think our team was ready for Chicago in the first half and clearly that was my responsibility.”

In what way weren’t they ready?

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“We didn’t come out with the same energy we’ve shown in past games,” Hackworth said. “We didn’t move the ball and we didn’t dictate the game early. Despite that, we went up a goal. But to give up two goals that late in the [first] half, it can’t happen.”

While the Philly players agreed the three goals the Fire scored – including the two in the final few minutes before halftime – were unacceptable, they rallied around their popular coach, just as they did when he was first hired in June following Peter Nowak’s tumultuous reign.

“He can’t guard the guys on the field that scored, so I don’t know how it’s Coach Hack’s fault,” center back Amobi Okugo told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought he did a good job preparing us for the week. He gave us our assignments. He gave us the tendencies of the players on the field. I don’t know how it’s his fault. We didn’t come out to play to the best of our abilities.”

At times, the Union looked in disarray – in part due to some lineup decisions Hackworth made, which included starting rookie Ray Gaddis and newcomer Bakary Soumare on the backline, moving Gabriel Farfan into the midfield and giving rookie Chandler Hoffman his second career start up top.

But Hackworth’s hand was partly forced by the international absences of captain Carlos Valdes and steady midfielder Gabriel Gomez. And regardless, he thought the team should have been better prepared to not allow a restart goal for the second straight contest.

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The Union have now lost two straight league games for the first time in the Hackworth era. But like Okugo, right back Sheanon Williams is backing up his coach as the team has hit one of the rougher patches of their season.

“I mean, I don’t think it’s Coach Hackworth’s fault,” Williams said. “We as players have to come prepared. Two goals in less than five minutes right before the first half is unacceptable. We have to do better.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.