By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia Union will be on the road on Saturday night as they travel down to Texas to take on the Houston Dynamo.
The arrow is pointing up for the Union these days. Since John Hackworth took over as interim team manager for Peter Nowak, they played a strong game but lost to D.C. United, then dominated Sporting K.C. in a 4-0 win. In addition, they advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup with a 5-2 win over Harrisburg.
Needless to say, Hackworth says the last few weeks since he replaced Nowak have been an emotional roller coaster.
“That’s a great way to describe it,” Hackworth tells KYW Newsradio. “But it’s been really good, we’ve gotten a lot of efficient work done in the last couple of weeks. The team is obviously playing well. Guys have responded fantastically. So we just gotta to make sure we keep moving in a positive direction.”
Hackworth had served as a Novak’s assistant for his entire tenure as Union team manager (which started well before the franchise’s first match). He says the transition to his new role hasn’t been difficult, and he talks about the change in dynamic when you move from assistant to the man in charge.
“It is different, because you have to make sure that the relationships are built in a different way. But I think the one thing that remains constant is you have to have trust, you have to have open communication, you gotta speak very honestly to the players so they know exactly where they stand.”
Perhaps the most eye-opening development on Hackworth’s watch has been the unleashing of Jack McInerney. Buried for much of the season under Nowak, the 19-year-old forward has been reborn since Hackworth took over.
“For our entire organization, its been wonderful to watch Jack come out of a bit of a tough spot that he was in earlier in the year and play some really good soccer and produce,” Hackworth says. “He scored two goals against Kansas City, he scored a good goal the other night in our Open Cup match against Harrisburg. But more so than that, he’s playing a role that is very important to us. And that allows us to do a lot of other things in our attack.”
As for Saturday’s match in Houston, Hackworth says they will have their hands full with last year’s MLS Cup runner up.
“They are a good team. They have been a little inconsistent this year but they have the bulk of their team from last year back. They have a brand new stadium, what I hear it’s a very tough place to play. I can almost guarantee that it’s going to be hot, humid and muggy. We’ll have to bring our best to get a good result down there.”
Philadelphia brings a 3-8-2 into this match. The Dynamo sit at 5-5-5.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.