CHESTER, Pa. -- Although Union coach John Hackworth has turned his attention to facing the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the coach just can’t get the bad taste of last Saturday’s loss out of his mouth.
“I probably never watched a game as many times as I watched this one,” said Hackworth, whose team lost to midfielder Graham Zusi and the rest of Sporting Kansas City, 3-1, to fall to 0-1-0 on the season. “Straight through, probably three times and then film edits -- going back and forth trying to figure out what we were doing in certain situations, it was a lot over the better part of three days.”
With a storybook start and in front of a riled up PPL Park crowd, Sebastien Le Toux gave the Union the 1-0 advantage. But after 40 minutes of play, the Union completely dissolved at the hands of Sporting KC, which crushed a lifeless home club in the second half.
Looking to reverse errors and make sure that same thing doesn’t happen against the Rapids, who lost their opening contest to FC Dallas, 1-0, and stand at 0-1-0, Hackworth wants to know what went wrong.
“The one thing that has me baffled is that we played so good for 40 minutes of that game and in one moment in the first half, we let our guard down and got punished,” he said. “The next 10 minutes to start the second half, we weren’t good. We looked like a completely different team.
“It’s amazing that for 70 minutes of that game, we dictated in every area. But for 20-25 minutes, we were a different team on the field. And I don’t have an answer for that.
“All I can say is that we’re preaching consistency. If we can do it for that long against that quality of opponent, there’s no reason to ever let down. It was a mental letdown.”
Using Gabe Farfan as an attacking midfielder and pushing Ray Gaddis to left back was a change for Hackworth, who also tapped Le Toux and Keon Daniel up front with Amobi Okugo in place of Bakary Soumare on the back line against Sporting KC.
The opening day lineup was anything but predictable, and the guessing games could continue versus the Rapids, as the manager tries to remedy the Union’s problems by tweaking the starting 11.
“I haven’t made that decision yet but we expect some different players in the lineup,” said Hackworth. “Maybe not a lot but we certainly feel like we have good depth and guys that have been in training and deserve an opportunity. When you get caught on the side of the score that we did, I think players and everyone expects changes to be made.”
One addition could be Rapids all-time leading scorer and current Union forward Conor Casey, who was picked up by the Union in the MLS Re-Entry Draft this offseason. Casey, who played six years in Colorado, played six minutes against Sporting KC.
“I don’t think there is any better motivation than a player going back to his home club and trying to make sure he pours some salt in the wound,” said Hackworth. “For Conor, it’ll be great. I certainly think it’s a good possibility for us to do that.”
But the Union aren’t the only ones looking to utilize the vengeance of individual players. Traded to the Rapids from the Portland Timbers last week, Danny Mwanga, former Union inaugural first-round pick, is expected to make his Rapids debut against his former club.
"It's going to be big, it's going to be huge," Mwanga told ColoradoRapids.com. "I was a part of that team and I know some of the guys on that team, so it can be an advantage. But at the same time they can try to make it hard for me. I'm ready for it. Once they come here I'll be looking forward to stepping in and hopefully I'll be on the side winning the game."
With the Rapids suffering injuries to players like attackers Edson Buddle and Jaime Castrillon, Hackworth expects Mwanga to make an impact.
“I’m sure Danny Mwanga will be extremely motivated,” said the Union coach. “I know he hasn’t been in Colorado very long, but he has had a week to get settled. He’s one of those guys that we saw in our scouting report that could be on the field for them. It’ll be good to see him but I won’t talk friendly to him until after the game.”
Though it is just the Union’s first road test, leaving Colorado without a result would be a troublesome hole for Hackworth’s fragile club. But it won’t be easy. Aside from the expected snow and high altitude, the Rapids are in the same position as the Union, meaning Saturday’s contest will most definitely be a battle.
“They had a rough start last weekend and they probably feel like they should have scored a couple goals,” Hackworth said of the Rapids. “We’re both in the position of needing wins very badly in week two and that’s going to be really difficult.
“Two teams fighting to get back on the right side of the board.”