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Opponent watch: Changes in Philadelphia bring dividends

Philadelphia Union interim head coach John Hackworth has shuffled things around since he took over for Peter Nowak last month, and his decisions seem to have paid dividends so far.

The club from the city of brotherly love has gone 4-2-0 under Hackworth’s leadership

Previous game: PHI 3, TOR 0

in all competitions, which includes a 5-2 Open Cup victory over Harrisburg, and his side has scored 15 goals over those six games played. 

Under Nowak, the Union was 2-7-2 in regular season action, having scored just eight times over those 11 matches, and the team was sitting with the second worst record in the entire league. Now in the mix with a number of teams for a playoff spot, Hackworth has the Union flying on all cylinders.

“I think we have good attacking players,” Hackworth told reporters last weekend. “I think they feel like they have some freedom to go to goal, and we’ve been encouraging them to do so. Fortunately for us, they’re finding the back of the net, and that means everything.”

Hackworth moved to Philly after spending two years as an assistant coach with the U.S. Men’s National Team under Bob Bradley, a similar trajectory to MLS as that of Impact head coach Jesse Marsch, helping guide the squad to a first place finish in group play in World Cup Qualifying and a second place finish in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Decisions, decisions

After being an afterthought on the depth chart by ex-manager Nowak over the last two months, Philadelphia Union striker Jack McIerney has been brought back into the fold under Hackworth, and is proving his new bench boss made the right call.

The 19 year old has scored three goals and added two assist in four regular season starts under Hackworth, having played just 28 minutes in his previous seven games under the old regime.

Mclerney isn’t the only one benefiting from Hackworth’s roster moves. He changed the Union formation to a 4-3-3 and made midfielder Amobi Okugo a starter alongside Mclerney, while putting Sheanon Williams back in his original position as a right back. Hackworth has also given more playing time to rookie Antoine Hoppenot who has been dangerous off the bench.

Eastern conference momentum

Following three devastating losses, the Montreal Impact came back for the very first time this season to defeat the Columbus Crew last weekend 2-1. After a difficult game against sporting Kansas City in which the Impact played a good game, but were on the wrong end of two penalty shot calls, Impact head coach Jesse Marsch feels Saturday’s win could give the Impact the momentum it needs to make a strong push after facing so much adversary.

“This was a good win for us. The players deserve a ton of credit as they battled on the field and dug in. This will be something we will use to gain some momentum moving forward.”

As one of the hottest teams in MLS, a clash of momentum this coming Saturday will make for a momentous matchup.