PHILADELPHIA – Up until very recently, John Hackworth had the full support of Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz.
But Sakiewicz said his tune changed dramatically after he watched the Union fail to pick up a full three points at home for the sixth straight game in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
And with the Union sitting at a disheartening 3-7-6 heading into the three-week World Cup break, Sakiewicz decided the time was right to fire Hackworth, the manager he once entrusted with turning around the franchise.
“I never in my dreams would have thought that I would have done what I did today,” Sakiewicz told MLSsoccer.com. “But that’s soccer. That’s professional sports. If I had just slogged along until the end of the season, I wouldn’t be doing my job to the fans. I wouldn’t be doing my job for the sponsors and all of my partners. You’ve got to win.”
Indeed, Tuesday’s decision to part ways with Hackworth and promote assistant Jim Curtin to the role of interim manager simply came down to “wins and losses” – which, according to Sakiewicz, shows “the ruthlessness of the business.”
Despite overhauling their midfield in the offseason with a trio of big-name acquisitions, the Union have won just once at home this season and currently have the third-worst points-per-game average in MLS.
When reached by MLSsoccer.com, Hackworth declined to comment.
Sakiewicz said he broke the news to Hackworth on Tuesday but first decided that a change was needed after watching Saturday’s draw with Vancouver a second time – this despite curiously admitting the team has been “scary good” at times and had “dominated our opponents in most of the games we’ve played.”
“Honestly, up to that point, I hadn’t thought about it,” Sakiewicz said. “I was 100 percent in John’s corner, and we were trying to figure out a way together how we are going to get some three-point games under our belt. Saturday night was a big disappointment.
“Again, I go back to our fans. They don’t deserve ties at home; they deserve victories. They don’t deserve being near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They deserve a team that’s going to be near the top.”
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Sakiewicz made another coaching change – almost two years ago to the day – when he dismissed Peter Nowak, the club’s first manager, and promoted Hackworth to the interim role, before shedding the interim tag two-and-a-half months later.
This time around, Sakiewicz said Curtin – a Philly native and former MLS All-Star who had been Hackworth’s assistant since the start of the 2013 season – “may very well have the inside pole position to get the job.”
But, he said, the team would look across the globe for a high-profile manager.
And he promised that search would begin Tuesday.
“I haven’t even checked my iPhone, but the resumes are flooding in I’m being told,” Sakiewicz said. “There’s a lot of interest in coaching in MLS [from] overseas – big coaches. You guys will hear some big names.”
Until then, Curtin will be in charge of the club, with Sakiewicz saying the goal will be to chase the US Open Cup title – a “big opportunity” that begins next Tuesday when the Union face the Harrisburg City Islanders at PPL Park – and make a run at the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“I handed Jim the keys this morning,” Sakiewicz said, “and said, ‘It’s your bus to drive and you let me know how I can help you.’”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.