CHESTER, Pa. – It’s already clear the Philadelphia Union will have to reconfigure their backline because of Jeff Parke’s injury and Sheanon Williams’ suspension.
Those won’t be the only changes.
With the Union set to play three games in eight days, starting with Saturday’s match in Chicago against the Fire at Toyota Park (1:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com), manager John Hackworth noted that other bench players will likely see their roles expanded.
“There will be multiple guys that get an opportunity that haven’t played in at least a starting role,” Hackworth said. “We have to manage these three games. And it’s dictated by what happens in the first one for sure. But we feel like we have good depth. And we’re ready for it.”
Hackworth specifically mentioned Sébastien Le Toux, Antoine Hoppenot and Kléberson (above) as players who will push for starting spots over the next week, and Chris Albright and Michael Lahoud as players who might be called upon to provide some defensive cover off the bench.
“Guys can sense there’s a little bit of an opportunity now,” Hackworth said. “So that ratchets up the intensity and the reality they might have a shot.”
What those players will do with their shots remains to be seen. But Hackworth didn’t rule out the possibility that his starting lineup – which had been the same for the last three games – could change down the road if certain players seize their opportunities.
“Jack McInerney got the chance last year to come in and be a starter,” Hackworth said. “He was ready for that opportunity, and if you look at it he really hasn’t relinquished it since then. Any time a player, especially a professional player who works so hard in training, has a chance to now represent himself in a different role, specifically as a starting player, it’s fantastic. A lot of things in my experience can change once players get these chances.”
But for Philly’s current bench players to get back into the starting rotation, they’ll need to first play well when called upon this week. And that won’t be easy, considering the Union play the Fire twice, sandwiched around a midweek contest against the two-time defending champion LA Galaxy.
“It’s difficult no matter how you look at it,” Hackworth said when asked about playing the same team twice in a one-week span. “What’s going to compound that situation is we have the MLS Cup champions coming here in the middle of it. That’s going to be the first time this year we’ve faced this situation. In all ways, it’s going to be a really challenging week ahead for us.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.