As the losses mount, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth is trying his best not to think about his increasingly tenuous job security.
But he knows that the growing unrest from the fan base – made evident by the “Fire Hackworth” chants that came from the PPL Park stands during Saturday’s 1-0 loss to D.C. United – is harder to ignore for his players.
“I certainly heard the fans on Saturday, and it’s impossible not to hear a lot of the talk,” Hackworth said during a conference call from the airport, a day before Philly’s road match Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“I’ve tried to be very diligent about staying away from reading stuff in the press lately,” he added. “The reality is it’s impossible not to be affected by it – I wouldn’t say me as much as the players. With the position, you have to understand this is part of the business. For the players, though, it’s an entirely different thing because it can certainly have a negative impact on them. To be honest, I think it has.”
What kind of negative impact?
“When I say it's had a negative impact, I mean it’s harder for them to be in that stadium and have their total concentration be on their best performance when I think it’s a distraction,” Hackworth said. “That’s just my personal opinion. Again, I’m trying to make sure that they know it’s not a concern at all on my end. I’m going to be all right either way. The focus has to be on them and their performance.”
Following Saturday’s loss, many Union players came to Hackworth’s defense and blamed their own lack of execution for the team’s nine-game winless streak.
When asked about what that support meant to him, Hackworth pointed to the closeness of a locker room and a group of players that still think the team can have turn a terrible season into a successful one.
“We have a group that believes in the process, believes in the work that you do and believes in the direction that you’re trying to lead them,” Hackworth said. “I think you know that without having people come out in the press and say they support you. That part, I don’t expect to change.”
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In an interview with MLSsoccer.com last week, Hackworth admitted that he knows there’s “only so much time” left to turn the season around. But despite some rumors that have circulated, he said he’s had no indication that a change to the coaching staff could be in the works if the Union don’t end their franchise-long winless streak soon.
And even if there is, it’s not something he has time to worry about.
“All I can do is come to work every day and try to continue the plan we’ve had for a long time, to put this team in a position where we can be successful,” Hackworth said. “That’s my sole focus and goal, and really to try to relieve any pressure or negative aspects the players might be feeling.
“I know from [Union CEO] Nick Sakiewicz and our front office, I feel like I’m supported. But that’s a better question for them.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.