CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union have only won three games this season, and all three of those games have had a common thread: captain Brian Carroll did not play in any of them.
But even though Carroll has battled through injuries and inconsistent play this season – and the Union have a troubling 0-5-5 record with their captain in the starting lineup – he still has the trust of manager John Hackworth.
“It just so happens that we’ve had better results when he hasn’t been [on the field],” Hackworth said. “I don’t think that’s the reason personally. I’m sure people out there have different opinions, but we’re very happy with Brian. And I think he’s very confident with himself and where he’s at.”
This season has been a new experience for Carroll, an ironman who's played in more than 300 games over his 12-year career.
Already this season, he’s sat out five games and came out of two other contests before the final whistle. By contrast, in his first three seasons in Philly, the 32-year-old midfielder played a full 90 minutes in more than 90 percent of the team’s games.
“I still think Brian – he’s our captain,” Hackworth said. “He is our leader in terms of the way he does everything, what he’s meant to this club over the last several years. All of those things are very important. And within our team, it doesn’t matter whether Brian is in the starting 11 or whether he’s in the 18.”
Hackworth admitted that Carroll might have a different role on the team moving forward as the Union manager is still looking for the best way to utilize his captain along with first-year midfielders Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira.
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But even if Carroll continues to play less, Hackworth is sure his captain will handle it just as he has everything in his career: as a consummate professional.
“I think Brian’s in a good place,” the Union manager said. “I’ve said this many, many times but I don’t think there’s a better pro in all ways. He prepares well, he’s mentally sound and he knows himself better than anybody.
“And in everything he does, he comes to work every day with the right attitude and is ready for whatever role you’re going to give him on the day.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.