Union's Hackworth facing "tough decisions" in offseason

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CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union may not be going to the playoffs this season. But whichever players see the field for the final three games of 2012 will need to be at their very best – the faces in 2013 could be very different.

“Certainly, these last three games are critical in our final analysis,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “It’s our last look at guys who are on our current roster and I think you can’t overstate that fact.”

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While Danny Cruz and other players have said that they’re “playing for jobs” over the final week of the season, starting with Saturday’s game vs. Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium (7:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Hackworth stopped short of using those words. But the Union manager didn’t stop short of saying there will be some changes on the club’s 2013 roster.

“I wouldn’t say they’re playing for jobs because I think we have a great group of guys and I’m proud to work with them every single day,” Hackworth said. “Certainly it’s not like the next 10 days are going to make and break some guys. But there are certainly some tough decisions we’re going to have to make in that locker room.”

With that in mind, it’s a positive thing that these final three games will present a serious challenge for the eighth-place Union, who have won three of their last four games. Following Saturday’s tilt in Houston, they’ll stay on the road to face first-place Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 24 and then close the season with a home showdown against the rival New York Red Bulls three days later.

“While I wouldn’t say I’d want these three games to end the season, in some ways I’m glad we have them,” Hackworth said. “Because I think it sets up as a perfect evaluation tool to use as we look toward the future.”

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Saturday’s game will be especially difficult as the Dynamo are the only team in MLS who have yet to lose at home this season.

The Union – who’ve already lost once at BBVA Compass Stadium this season, after a controversial penalty kick was awarded to Houston in the final minutes – hope to end that streak this weekend and put a dent in the Dynamo’s playoff hopes in the process.

“We have a belief when we went down there we deserved better,” Hackworth said. “When you feel that way, you certainly want to go back and redeem yourself a little bit.”

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