CHESTER, Pa. – Keon Daniel has already departed for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with the Trinidad and Tobago national team, and it seemingly could not come at a worse time for the Philadelphia Union.
With midfielders Kléberson (right quad strain) and Danny Cruz (lower leg contusion) both banged up and striker Jack McInerney poised to be called up to the Gold Cup as well, the Union could be very shorthanded for their next three games: a grueling stretch against powerhouses FC Dallas (Saturday), Real Salt Lake (July 3) and Houston (July 6).
“It leaves us a little thin,” Hackworth said Wednesday during his weekly press conference, “Kléberson is about the same place he was last week at this time and that’s a negative. We think he’d progressively get better but it’s coming along a lot slower. Danny is another one … He doesn’t have a fracture but he can’t train right now. He’s definitely questionable for this week and that takes out a really important piece of our midfield right now.”
Hackworth declined to comment about McInerney’s impending Gold Cup call-up, which was first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, because U.S. Soccer has yet to make it official. Either way, McInerney will be available for Saturday’s game against FC Dallas at PPL Park (5:30 pm ET, NBC Sports/LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com) before potentially making his first-ever appearance with the US senior national team.
The more immediate need for the Union is replacing Daniel, who enjoyed one of his best games of the season in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls. It was also his last game with Philly before he joined his Trinidadian teammates in preparation for the Gold Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago opens the tournament on July 8 against El Salvador at Red Bull Arena.
“Keon, I think has had probably his most consistent year as a professional at the highest level,” Hackworth said. “That’s great for him. And that’s great for us.
"Similar to Jack, when a player gets that honor of playing for a national team, having been on the flip side as a [US national team] coach, you want to honor those things. You have to deal with that and when you’re having success, you’re going to have more players called up. Keon is an example of that. We’ll do our best to get on without him.”
Before leaving, Keon expressed mixed emotions about his extended absence. He will miss at least the Union’s next four games and possibly more if Trinidad and Tobago make it out of Group B and into the knockout stage – which Daniel believes is a realistic possibility.
“I’m always happy to play for my country,” Daniel said. “I think it’s an honor for every player. We haven’t been in a tournament for a while and I think the whole team is eager to play in a tournament like this – a major tournament.
“It will be sad for me to miss [MLS] games because I love being here to help my teammates,” the Union midfielder added. “But life goes on and that’s why we are a team and not one player.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com.