Hackworth: Veteran goalscorer tops Union's shopping list

CHESTER, Pa. – For the Philadelphia Union, the hunt is on.

The target? A big-time goalscorer.

Team manager John Hackworth confirmed this week that the team’s top offseason priority is to land a quality striker to boost an offense that netted just 37 goals through 34 games in 2012, the second-lowest total in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s no secret we need someone to come here to score goals,” Hackworth said, “and have experience to add to a very youthful side.”

Experience is one component Hackworth is looking for in a potential acquisition. There are others, too, like size and physicality. But the Union manager also wants to be careful not to exclude anyone who is talented and can blend in well in the club’s locker room.

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“I’ve seen a lot of fans out there saying how this player has to be a giant, he has to be this, he has to be that,” Hackworth said. “It’s great to make a wish list but, at the same time, you have to understand we can only get what’s out there and available. We’re looking for an experienced goalscorer and if we can find one and get him here, that would be fantastic.”

The need for a striker was apparent through most of the season for the Union, who shipped away three of their top forwards in Sébastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga and Lionard Pajoy over the past 10 months.

Some of those scoring concerns were eased by the late-season emergence of 20-year-old Jack McInerney, who finished with a team-leading eight goals in 1,630 minutes. But Hackworth believes an older striker will help McInerney, as well as other promising young forwards Antoine Hoppenot and Chandler Hoffman.

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“We feel like we have a really good core of young attacking players,” Hackworth said. “If we bring in an experienced guy that’s proven in a top league that he can score 10-12 goals a year, that young group of attackers will only get better.

“We’re not looking to replace any of those players,” Hackworth added, referring to McInerney, Hoppenot and Hoffman. “We’re looking to bring someone in to help them be better and help our team be better.”

Hackworth didn’t specify where he’ll be able to find such a player – except to say that he will look everywhere, both in MLS and abroad.

“We are shaking every bush and lifting every rock possible,” he said.

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