CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union interim manager John Hackworth wanted his players to focus on only one thing over the past couple of days: nothing.
So after the club’s disheartening 2-0 loss to Montreal on Saturday, Hackworth decided to give them some time off to recharge their batteries. The Union – whose July schedule was packed with three-game weeks – returned to practice Wednesday to begin preparations for Sunday’s game vs. Chicago at PPL Park (7 pm ET, Galavision).
“Any time you play as many games as we have in a short amount of time, I think it’s good to put the ball in the closet, so to speak,” Hackworth said during Wednesday’s weekly press conference. “Both mentally and physically, guys needed a rest. Luckily, we have an extra day this week by playing Sunday vs. Chicago. It is a good opportunity to give a couple of days off.”
Union right back Sheanon Williams, who’s fifth on the club in minutes played with 1,613, said it was “good to get away from soccer and do something else.” For him, that something else turned out to be playing laser-tag and racing go-karts with teammates Antoine Hoppenot and Jimmy McLaughlin.
Williams made sure to keep his competitive spirits high during that time, however.
“I smoked everybody,” said Williams, apparently a laser tag phenom. “It was bad. I think Antoine got 150 [points] and I had like 3,150. He might have had a faulty gun.”
No appeal on McInerney’s red card
Hackworth had made his displeasure clear regarding Jack McInerney's ejection from Saturday’s game for pushing Montreal’s Nelson Rivas after Rivas headbutted Hoppenot.
But after considering his options and having discussions with the league earlier this week, the Union manager said he’s decided not to appeal the card and the suspension McInerney will serve Sunday vs. Chicago.
“By the letter of the law, the referee can eject someone for physically contacting another player, whether it’s a push, hit, headbutt or kick,” Hackworth said. “So it’s really hard to basically fight that. It was the referee’s decision and we have to abide by that. Hopefully the league looks at that particular case and maybe makes an example out of it for our referees and players and coaches going forward.”
In the short term, though, he’ll have to find a way to replace McInerney, who’s scored four goals in the past eight games.
“Jack’s been so important to our run of form recently,” Hackworth said. “Not having him is a big loss...but what it does is open up an opportunity for another young, attacking player to get a shot and prove himself this Sunday.”
International duty calls
While Carlos Valdés (Colombia), Gabriel Gómez (Panama) and Keon Daniel (Trinidad and Tobago) are all tentatively scheduled to play for their respective national teams next Wednesday, Hackworth isn’t sure yet if they’ll be available for Sunday’s game.
The biggest lost would be Valdés, the team’s captain and defensive anchor in the back line.
“We’ve got to figure it out with Carlos,” Hackworth said. “We’re still trying to finalize his travel plans with the Colombian federation. We hope he’s available Sunday but if he’s not, we’ll deal with it. Right now, we don’t know.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.