Less than a week ago, Diego Gutiérrez talked with reporters about his role in the marquee acquisition of center back Bakary Soumaré.
It would be the last move Gutiérrez would help make as the sporting director of the Philadelphia Union.
Interim manager John Hackworth confirmed on Monday a report that surfaced a night earlier that Gutiérrez and youth technical director Alecko Eskandarian are no longer with the organization.
Hackworth, who has been given the authorization to hire and fire despite his interim tag, said it was his decision to let both members of the technical staff go.
“Both are separate situations,” Hackworth told reporters on a conference call from Southern California, where the Union are gearing up for a Wednesday game with the LA Galaxy. “I don’t think it’s fair to either one of the individuals to put them in the same context. But the bottom line is neither one of them are working for the Philadelphia Union anymore.”
Hackworth preferred not to get into specific details about why he cut ties with Gutiérrez and Eskandarian. One possible reason is that both have a deeper connection to Peter Nowak – who Hackworth replaced as team manager last month – than they do to Hackworth. Gutiérrez played with Nowak in Chicago and Eskandarian played under Nowak in D.C. after being selected first in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft.
Eskandarian could usually be found on the sideline during Nowak’s reign but failed to appear there during any of Hackworth’s first four games in charge, leaving Rob Vartughian and Brendan Burke as the only remaining assistant coaches.
Hackworth noted both Vartughian and Burke will see their roles expand in the scouting department until the Union hire replacements for Gutiérrez and Eskandarian – which the Union interim manager said has not yet happened.
He also cited the Union’s U-18 Academy head coach Jim Curtin – who, Hackworth said, “does a fantastic job and probably has not gotten as much publicity as credit as he deserves” – as someone who will help keep the youth system moving in the right direction with Eskandarian out of the picture.
“We know the workload will have to be assumed by the current staff,” Hackworth said. “That is a challenge for all of us, but I don’t think it’s an impossible job for us to do. We certainly have a lot of skill sets within our staff. I’m very confident we can do that. We certainly need to hire for those positions as we move forward, but at the moment the most important job is to build and get the first team moving in the right direction and continue what we’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks.”
Perhaps the biggest thing the Union lose with these moves is Gutiérrez’s bridge to South America and Central America, which he used to help reel in many Latin players, including key starters Lionard Pajoy, Gabriel Gómez and Carlos Valdés.
Hackworth acknowledged as much but also said that, while he’s “not fluent in español,” he’s traveled to all of those countries as well and has developed “some pretty strong relationships with people there, too.”
“I think we’re going to be OK in that department,” the Union interim manager said. “With Diego, that’s a strong point of his, but we have to move on.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.