The morning after one of the most devastating losses of his coaching career – a last-minute 2-1 defeat to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday – Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth looked out of his window and decided to think positively.
“I woke up and I was like, ‘The sun’s out, I’ve got a fantastic job, it’s a beautiful day and I’m going to work to do something I love,’” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com.
Then, the day got even better. That afternoon, Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz called Hackworth to tell him the "interim" tag would be taken off his title and that he would be the club’s permanent manager.
“Nick and I have a good relationship, so I operated from Day 1 … like this was going to be a permanent thing anyway,” Hackworth said. “But it’s certainly really nice to have the knowledge that I’ll be here for a while.”
While somewhat surprised with the timing of the move – he previously admitted he thought it might not happen until the end of the season – Hackworth wasn’t shocked by the decision itself.
Since taking over for ex-manager Peter Nowak on June 13, Hackworth has essentially been given the keys to the franchise, which allowed him to make personnel moves like the recent release of Jorge Perlaza, the last player Nowak traded for before losing his job.
Despite the change in title, Hackworth says he won’t change his approach. The former US national team assistant coach said he never thought about whether “his job was on the line” when he made lineup or tactical decisions. Instead, he thought about only what’s best for the franchise, both in the short-term and the long-term.
“I think that’s the only way you can truly do a good job, an honest job, as a coach,” Hackworth said. “So I don’t think anything’s going to change.”
While Hackworth admitted publicly this week that the Union’s playoff hopes are essentially over thanks to a winless August, he still hopes they’ll finish strong this season, starting with Saturday’s game vs. New England at Gillette Stadium (7:30 pm ET, live stream on MLS LIVE).
Then, he’ll turn his attention to his first preseason as manager, where he’ll be tasked with building the roster in his way, perhaps bringing in another assistant coach, and generally putting more of his stamp on the franchise. It will certainly provide some extra stability to the club, if not for the coach himself.
“I think coaching, no matter what, is kind of an interim position, just by the very nature of things,” Hackworth said. “But it’s nice to have the full support because it gives the people I coach and the people I interact with a little more security that I’m the one making the decisions and doing it for a little while longer than just a short-term basis.
“It certainly takes some stress off and it gives us a little bit more stability, for sure.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.