Philadelphia Union's John Hackworth: DC United game "as close as they come to must-win game"

CHESTER, Pa. – It might be a sports cliché to call a game a “must win,” especially one that’s relatively early in the season.

But for the Philadelphia Union, who are winless in their last eight contests and returning home for the first time in three weeks to face arguably their biggest rivals, it’s hard to think of Saturday’s matchup with D.C. United at PPL Park (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE) in any other way.

“This is as close as they come to a must-win game,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “You’re starting the second third of the year and coming off our performances and our results, I don’t know any other way to think about it other than this is a game we must win.”

As desperate as the team is to get a win, it’s equally desperate to score a goal. In their past four games (three losses and one tie), the Union have scored just twice – on a penalty kick and an own goal.

Now, Hackworth is calling on everyone to help the team break out of the offensive drought, no matter their position.

“I don’t want to put that pressure on the forwards specifically,” the Union manager said. “I think it’s our entire team. … It’s not just the forwards. I think our midfielders and our backs making overlapping runs and their service in the box, all of those things come together.”

Facing a team that sits three points above them in the Eastern Conference standings adds another crucial element to Saturday’s match.

The Union will also find extra motivation in the team’s plans to honor Eric Shertz, the Sons of Ben original and devoted Union fan who died three weeks ago. Those plans include Hackworth walking out of the tunnel with Eric’s 15-year-old son Gabe (who also trained with the team Friday) and fans observing a moment of silence at the 20:10 mark.

“For the celebration of Eric’s life that’s going to go on Saturday, to have us also celebrate a much-needed victory would be fantastic for all of us,” Hackworth said.

“We feel like we’re due for that kind of performance and we feel like we owe the fans that kind of performance.”

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