CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union have just one win heading into their ninth game of the season, haven’t scored from the run of play in their last two contests and are coming off a game in which they didn’t register a single shot on goal.
And yet, manager John Hackworth wants the Union (1-2-5) to keep doing exactly what they've been doing heading into Saturday’s Eastern Conference clash against the Montreal Impact (0-4-3) at Stade Saputo (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“There’s a stat that a lot of people look at in soccer and I don’t think it’s a good one – it’s shots or shots on goal,” Hackworth said. “It’s a terrible stat for soccer. What is a much more important stat is how many penalty entries you get or how many final third entries, how many successful passes you’ve had and how many went forward. And when you break down those measurements, we’ve been a really, really good team.
“Our thought is that we have to continue to do that. And at the end of the season, our belief is we’re going to be a good side.”
Hackworth specifically pointed to the play of central midfielders Brian Carroll and Vincent Nogueira, both of whom completed almost every pass they attempted in last week’s scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo. That, in turn, led to the team getting a couple of solid scoring chances that Hackworth said the Union were “unlucky” not to finish – even if they didn’t log an official shot of goal.
At the same time, Hackworth did concede that the Union players need to be more aggressive in the final third – Nogueira included.
“I definitely think we have to pull the trigger a little more than we are,” the Union manager said. “That’s something we’re trying to emphasize with our guys. Vincent is one of those guys. If you get a look from what might be distance, don’t be afraid to take it.”
One player who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger is Jack McInerney, who led the Union in goals, shots and shots on goals last season before being traded to Montreal earlier this month for Andrew Wenger.
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Now, just three weeks after the surprising deal, the offense-starved Union will face a hungry McInerney in Montreal.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Hackworth said. “I know, personally, I look forward to seeing him. There’s no ill-will between us. In this game in particular, our goal will be to deny not only Jack but [Marco] Di Vaio and their other attacking players the time and space they need to do what they do best.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Hackworth is confident the goals from his own team will come.
“Within our team, we’re very confident about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Hackworth said. “And my experience as a coach is that the more you continue to play that way, the chances will turn, the tide will turn and we’ll see the results come our way.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.