To have a successful start to the season, the Philadelphia Union knew that they needed to find a way to mesh a talented group of newcomers with their returning core.
Not only has that failed to happen yet but many of the club’s most reliable returners have struggled through an uncharacteristically choppy first three months – one big reason why the Union are 2-7-5 heading into Saturday’s game against Chivas USA at StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
“It’s frustrating when you have guys that you depend on from year to year to really be the solid rocks on your team, and when those kind of performances waver, it really makes it difficult,” Philadelphia Union head coach John Hackworth said in his weekly conference call on Wednesday.
“Not pointing at any individuals, we’ve had several of those mixed performances from guys that we depend on to be the solid performers game in and game out.”
While Hackworth didn’t specifically name any players, it’s easy to figure out who he’s referencing. Veterans Brian Carroll and Sheanon Williams, key cogs on the Union’s 2011 playoff team, have struggled through injuries and inconsistent games so far this season, and both had giveaways that led to goals in last week’s 4-1 defeat to the Galaxy. And then there are returning offensive players like Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey and Antoine Hoppenot that have failed to deliver the kind of scoring that they have in the past for Philly.
“As a staff, we feel like we’ve given a lot of guys opportunities, and for whatever reason, either their individual performance or our team performance has been poor,” Hackworth said. “It makes it really tough. The good news is we have guys that are honest about the job they’re doing and honest about their own self-evaluation of their performance.”
While Hackworth seems confident that many of the team’s players can still turn it around, the confidence amongst the players themselves has taken a big hit as the Union fall deeper and deeper into a hole.
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“The players, I still think they believe in each other and themselves,” Hackworth said. “But it’s hard to believe and to keep that confidence when you’re continually giving up goals the way we’re doing it. You can see on the field that the guys get deflated in those moments.
“I don’t want to lie and tell you we’re still very confident. But you have a group of guys that, through these circumstances, have really been tested in their resolve.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.