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Hackworth baffled as Union's attacking woes continue

CHESTER, Pa. — John Hackworth is out of answers.

Sitting at the podium in the PPL Park media room, following another maddening defeat — this time a 1-0 loss to visiting D.C. United on Thursday night — the Philadelphia Union manager wasn’t angry or contrite. More than anything else, he was baffled.

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“A little bit of me feels like we can’t buy one no matter what,” Hackworth said.

He was talking about goals, which the Union didn’t get any of against D.C. It was the 10th time the Union were shut out this season, and the reeling club has scored just four times during an eight-game winless streak, none of which have come from an attacking player.

Meanwhile, the leading scorer who they traded away in August, Lionard Pajoy, scored the game’s only goal. And that came a day after another one of the Union's former high-scoring strikers, Danny Mwanga, netted a pair of goals in Portland’s 2-2 tie with San Jose.

Full Highlights: PHI 0, DC 1

“That’s the one guy we didn’t want to see score,” Antoine Hoppenot said of Pajoy’s game-winning second-half tally. “We get criticized on our finishing and we don’t want to see the one guy we let go score, especially with Danny Mwanga scoring twice. The forwards still with the Union aren’t scoring any goals and the forwards not with the Union are scoring — it’s tough to see.”

The speedy Hoppenot got a rare start Thursday in Hackworth’s attempt to jumpstart the offense with top attacking midfielder Michael Farfan suspended. And, to Hoppenot’s credit, the rookie was able to give Jack McInerney some help up top — just not enough for the Union to score.

“We pushed Jack and Danny Cruz up high and tried to go with a more attacking lineup with Keon Daniel and [Gabriel] Gómez,” Hackworth said. “We’re going to keep trying some stuff. But, at the end of the day, we’ve got to start finishing some chances or we’re just going to have the same conversation again and again. I hope that doesn’t happen.”

If there’s one player the Union need to break their drought, it’s McInerney. The third-year striker managed to get four of Philly’s five shots on goal, all while putting himself into dangerous positions behind the D.C. defense. But, like everyone else, he wasn’t able to beat D.C. goalie Bill Hamid, who, although somewhat shaky all night, walked away with five saves.

OPTA CHALKBOARD: Union's dominance not reflected in the score

“I need a little deflection or a bounce or something,” said McInerney, whose last goal came on July 29. “I can’t do anything but keep shooting and keep trying and eventually it will come.”

Like McInerney, Hackworth believes the Union need a little bit of luck to get going offensively. Until then, he’ll continue to be baffled at the goals that simply aren’t coming.

“That’s the game sometimes,” Hackworth said. “It’s cruel.”

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