HARRISON, N.J. – Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth is not pleased with how his backline has been leaving star players unmarked, or how his forwards have struggled to execute in front of goal.
But with the team winless in its last five heading into Saturday’s game against the Houston Dynamo at PPL Park (4 pm ET; MLS Live), Hackworth isn’t skirting responsibility away from the team’s revamped and talented midfield either.
“Our midfield’s been good, no matter who we put in there,” Hackworth said following Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls. “Our setup, our structure, our ball movement has been good. But we didn’t create enough chances, we were a little predictable in the final third, and that absolutely falls on the midfield’s shoulders too. We need to be a little more dynamic, a little more creative. When we pin a team as deep as we did, we have to get better chances.”
In other words, Hackworth wants his playmakers to make more plays. And even though new central midfielders Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira have been arguably the team’s two best players, they’ll be put under the microscope until the team starts winning some games.
For his part, Edu wants to see his new team develop a nasty streak when it comes to putting teams away.
“We do enough in these games where we should be ahead of teams, but maybe we’re not being nasty enough in the final third on either end,” Edu said. “So I think we just need to have that little bit of an edge – that chip on our shoulder for us to go out there and finish off plays, whether it’s in our box or to get on the end of plays to score goals.”
Like the Union (1-2-4), the Dynamo (2-3-0) enter Saturday’s matchup on a skid, having lost their last three.
But Houston has had Philly’s number, beating them in six of the last seven times the two teams have met, including both matchups in 2013.
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In the past seven days, the Union weren’t able to beat Real Salt Lake for the first time in franchise history or win at Red Bull Arena for the first time in franchise history. Now, they’ll have one more chance this week to defeat a team that has traditionally given them trouble – and they’ll lean on Edu and the rest of the midfield to help them do it.
“At some point, we need to mature as a team and get over the final little hump and start scoring more goals and finishing off games,” Edu said. “It’s too many times we’ve let ourselves down, where we've been good enough in a game to win and haven’t.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.