Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Union revealed that three more players – Michael Farfan, Amobi Okugo and Freddy Adu – would travel to Europe for offseason training stints, following in the footsteps Zac MacMath, Cristhian Hernandez and Jimmy McLaughlin.
And while Union manager John Hackworth is pleased to see some of his players get this type of overseas experience, he also cautioned that too much of it might not be ideal.
“We’ve set some parameters for all of our players and a time frame of when we allow them to seek out these opportunities and when we want them to shut it down and recover and regenerate from a very long season,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “They’ll all be back soon and then they’ll be on lockdown. Their job then is to recover mentally and physically, so we can really go after it in the start of the preseason.”
Hackworth noted because his team is filled with so many young American players, there is a certain “thirst” for the European experience.
That seems to be the case for Adu, Farfan and Okugo, all of whom will train overseas for a second straight offseason. Adu returned to Turkey – where he played professionally in 2011, to train with Galatasary – while Farfan and Okugo joined up with Germany’s SC Freiberg.
Okugo (who also trained with Freiburg last year) and Farfan (who trained with Sunderland last year) both logged a lot of minutes during this past MLS season and will be counted on as two of the Union’s most important players for the coming 2013 campaign.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Hackworth said, “but for Amobi and for Michael, I feel very positive those guys can handle it.”
Help on the way
The Union recently hired Ricardo Ansaldi as the club’s new director of international player development, and it appears more help is on the way.
Hackworth said a new assistant coach will be hired to join himself and assistants Rob Vartughian and Brendan Burke on the bench.
“We’ll be announcing another full-time add to our staff, hopefully very soon,” Hackworth said Tuesday.
The Union’s technical staff was extremely shorthanded last year following the midseason dismissal of former manager Peter Nowak and the subsequent firings of scouting director Diego Gutierrez and youth technical director Alecko Eskandarian, who also worked with the first team.
Giving thanks for no Expansion Draft
It’s going to be a much more pleasant holiday for Hackworth this weekend.
The past two years at this time, the Union’s roster was plucked like a Thanksgiving turkey, as they lost Shea Salinas and Alejandro Moreno in the 2010 expansion draft and then Justin Mapp in the 2011 expansion draft.
Hackworth has said before that it didn’t seem fair for a team that had its own expansion draft in 2009 to have to go through that, and noted how valuable those players were to the foundation of the Union.
“I didn’t like losing any of those three guys,” Hackworth said. “Thank goodness we don’t have to go through that this year.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.