John Hackworth calls Philadelphia Union's play in loss to Sporting "unacceptable"

CHESTER, Pa. – John Hackworth stepped up to the podium, leaned into the microphone and was as blunt as he possibly could be.

After a full offseason to retool the roster and mold the team into his vision, the Philadelphia Union manager expected a good start to the 2013 campaign. He never expected Philly to give up three unanswered goals in a 3-1 setback to Sporting Kansas City in Saturday’s season opener at PPL Park.

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“We feel like we let the fans down,” Hackworth said. “We feel like we let ourselves down.”

In the end, the same problems that doomed the club during their 10-18-6 campaign a year ago popped up again as the Union struggled to defend set pieces, gave up goals at the end of both halves and failed to hold onto a lead.

The Union led 1-0 and nearly went up by two or three goals, before the visitors mounted their comeback, scoring once at the end of the first half to tie the game and adding two more after the halftime break to steal a full three points.

“We took our foot off the gas for sure in the last second bit of the second half,” Hackworth said. “At halftime, I don’t think anyone in our locker room would have said we would give up two goals in the second half and not have gotten at least one or two.”

There were certainly positives for the Union, who dictated tempo through most of the first half against an opponent that figures to be one of the best in MLS this season. And Sébastien Le Toux, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, enjoyed a storybook return to Philly after a year away, scoring after 17 minutes to put the Union ahead.

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But not even Le Toux’s goal could change the mood of Hackworth, who lamented the fact that the Union did not have “the right amount of courage and fight” to get at least one goal back after SKC took control of the game in the second half.

“I can’t think of any way to feel good about anything that just happened,” Hackworth said. “I’m glad Seba’s here and I’m glad he scored a goal in his first game back. But the fact is this is a team sport. And, from our perspective, it’s unacceptable to play in PPL and play the way we did.”

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