Adu out, Hackworth to lean on youngsters vs. Chicago

CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth will likely make a few changes to his lineup when his team meets the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

And that’s not just because the Union were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend. They’re also nursing a few injuries, including one to Freddy Adu, who will miss his second straight game because of a left quad strain.

“Freddy Adu is not going to make the trip,” Hackworth revealed during his weekly press conference Tuesday. “He’s still suffering from a thigh injury. A couple of other guys are knocked up and two are getting treatment right now. So it definitely has the ability to look a little different [Wednesday] night than Saturday. That’s why we train hard and have young guys ready and prepared.”

Hackworth did not want to say which two players he was referring to as getting treatment, although starters Gabriel Farfan (right ankle contusion/right hamstring strain) and Danny Cruz (left big toe sesamoid stress fracture) are both listed as questionable on the injury report.

Hackworth (above) noted a handful of young players put themselves in a good position to earn playing time in Chicago by performing well in Sunday’s 3-3 draw with Columbus in Reserve League action – a group that includes Zach Pfeffer, Roger Torres, Greg Jordan, Jimmy McLaughlin and Chandler Hoffman. Pfeffer and Hoffman both scored in the game.

“We have emphasized every single day that they have to earn that opportunity,” Hackworth said. “Players have to earn it through training and performance in games.”

Injuries aside, it’s only natural that Hackworth’s attention will turn to evaluating some of the team’s most untested players now that the Union are officially out of the playoff race. But no matter who’s out on the field Wednesday, he’s eager to see how his team responds to their first game without any kind of official postseason implications.

“We don’t have anything left to play for but our reputation and to build for next year,” the Union manager said. “I think everybody understands that to a man, but we actually have to go out and do it in the next five games. It will be interesting to see how they react to that.”

One other thing that will motivate the Union over the final month of the season is trying to be a thorn in the side of other teams.

On Wednesday, the Fire will have a 15th anniversary ceremony that will even include an appearance from embattled ex-Union manager Peter Nowak, a former Chicago player. Are they hoping to put a damper on the Fire’s big night?

“That’s an added bonus to put some fuel in the fire to try to spoil their evening, but that hasn’t been our main focus,” Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. “Our main focus is to play well and be better in difficult moments of each game and try to get results down the stretch.”

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