Union players set sights on winning record for Hackworth

John Hackworth

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the sixth straight game, the Philadelphia Union failed to get a win. And as upset as the players were with themselves following this past Saturday’s scoreless draw with New England, they seemed to feel even worse for manager John Hackworth.

“Every time this happens,” Union forward Danny Cruz told MLSsoccer.com, “we kind of feel like we let him down.”

Luckily, they’ll have plenty of chances to make it up to him.

Two days before Saturday’s game in New England, Hackworth (above, in white) had the interim tag removed from his title as team manager – and many of his players could not have been happier to hear that news.

“I think all of the guys have really taken well to coach Hackworth,” Union right back Sheanon Williams said. “He’s a great coach and he knows what he’s talking about and knows how to get the best of us. I think he’ll continue to push us and we’ll get better from here.”

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While the Union have certainly fallen on hard times of late, it’s hard to argue that Hackworth helped stabilize the club after replacing embattled ex-manager Peter Nowak in mid-June. Under Nowak, the Union were 2-7-2. With Hackworth in charge, they are a far more palatable 5-6-3 and players have pointed to a better work environment and a clearer distinction of their roles.

“Communication and attention to detail are a couple of his strong points,” center back Amobi Okugo said. “He keeps everyone involved, whether it’s the 18th guy on the roster or the first guy on the roster.”

Okugo noted one goal for this season is to finish strong and make sure Hackworth finishes the 2012 campaign with a winning record, even if the Union don’t.

Then, they’ll begin to look toward next season, when having Hackworth running the show for a full preseason will help the franchise get a fresh start.

“It’s good for us to have that stability,” Okugo said. “To have someone we know and someone who practices what he preaches … hopefully we can build off this for next season.”

“To know he’s going to be staying on with us next year, I’m sure everyone is looking forward to it,” Williams added. “We’re not looking past this year, but next year we’ll be looking to do better things.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.