CHESTER, Pa. – With the Philadelphia Union winless in their last five games and now below the dreaded red line in the Eastern Conference playoff race, manager John Hackworth knows what’s being said about his team. He heard it himself from disgruntled fans at PPL Park as he was walking off the field following this past Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo.
But at the same time, the Union manager believes things would be a whole lot different if not for some very bad breaks – most recently, the disallowed Keon Daniel goal in the first half last weekend.
And Hackworth is well aware that Peter Walton, the general manager of the Professional Referee Organization, said on national TV this week that the goal should have stood because Amobi Okugo did not interfere with Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall on Daniel's free kick.
“Not only did we get plenty of chances but we scored a legitimate goal,” Hackworth told reporters following Wednesday’s training session. “It’s not our fault that it was called back. It is what it is and we have to live with that. But it changes everything. It literally changes everything.”
What would have changed had the Union gone up 1-0?
Instant Replay on Daniel's disallowed goal
“It’s so critical to get that first goal,” Hackworth said. “When you do that in this league, and particularly if we would have done that with that goal, the Dynamo would have had to come out. They would have had to [attack], which would have opened up space in behind and in the middle. And you would have seen a much different game.”
The Union manager then tried to catch himself before going too far down the excuse road.
“The one thing I didn’t want to do is talk about that goal because every time I talk about us being unfortunate, people think I’m one of those complainers,” he said. “I don’t want to be one of those whiners.”
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Still, one week after saying his team might need to shake up the lineup to snap out of the dry spell, Hackworth pointed mostly to the team’s misfortune as the symptom of the untimely winless streak.
He even called Philly’s first-half performance against Houston “one of the best halves of soccer we’ve played all year.”
“The perception that becomes reality is that we’re not in good form, and that’s where I disagree as a coach,” Hackworth said. “I think we’re playing well. And if we continue to play well, I believe that we’ll be in a good spot later on.
“It doesn’t mean we’re perfect because we’re not. But I think we deserve a lot more credit for the way we’re playing than what we’re getting right now.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.