CHESTER, Pa. – John Hackworth has been a loyal deputy, a trusted advisor and a good friend to Peter Nowak for the past three years.
But in the wake of the news that Hackworth was replacing Nowak as Philadelphia Union manager, the new man in charge wanted to make one thing clear.
“I can tell you that I’m not Peter Nowak,” Hackworth said. “I’m John Hackworth.”
What does that mean exactly? Will he implement new tactics and shuffle the lineup for his first game as manager Saturday vs. D.C. United at PPL Park (7 pm ET, Galavision)?
It’s possible, he said. But Hackworth also noted that putting his own stamp on the franchise probably won’t happen overnight.
“There will be some changes and some new faces out there,” Hackworth said. “But at the same time, we’ve played some really good soccer this year and our record doesn’t reflect how good we are. It’s not like we’re going to see a whole new team or lineup out there on Saturday.”
Even if there aren’t many changes on the field, Hackworth knows there will need to be changes in the standings, where the Union currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-7-2 record.
And he certainly thinks that’s possible with the team as it's currently constructed.
“Right now, we want to concentrate on the guys in our locker room and make sure they know we believe in them, we have faith in them and we brought them here for a reason,” Hackworth said.
At Wednesday’s press conference Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz spoke with similarly high regard of the Union’s players – as well as the club’s potential to make a run at the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We made some great adds to the team,” Sakiewicz said. “The key is for John and the technical staff to pull them all together to make them a team, not just individually talented players. That’s what we’re looking for John to do.”
If Hackworth can do that, Sakiewicz said the interim tag could be stripped from his title. And if that puts a lot of pressure on the Union boss, then he's certainly not letting it show.
“It’s not my first rodeo,” Hackworth said. “I was a college coach for nine years, a head coach in college for four years, a head coach with the national team for over four years. Even here, I’ve been the head coach numerous times. I don’t think it will be anything different.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.