Union hoping to correct late-game failures

Union hoping to correct late-game failures

July 6, 2013, 9:00 am
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John Hackworth and the Union are looking for roster help with the MLS summer transfer window open. (USA Today Images)

For the second time in less than a week, the Union held the man advantage and the lead, but watched it slip away in the 97th minute on both occasions.

Now as the club heads to BBVA Compass Stadium to face the 6-6-5 Houston Dynamo, they look to break the uncomfortable trend of leaving valuable points on the field.

“I’m losing a lot of hair, I’m aging like crazy,” Union coach John Hackworth said. “We’ve just got to improve. This is the second game in the row where we’ve just lost points at the very end of the game. A couple silly mistakes on our part, but I thought we would learn.”

Holding the 2-1 lead against FC Dallas on Saturday and Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, the impressive Union faltered, allowing tying goals in stoppage time despite holding the red-card man advantage.

With six points instead of two, the Union would be sitting in the top spot of the Eastern Conference. Instead, the club is in third -- one point behind the New York Red Bulls -- with a 7-5-6 overall record.

“The locker room is gutted,” Hackworth said. “We feel like we’re snake bitten. Two times in five days is hard to swallow. Everything in perspective, we’ve got to learn and keep going.”

Though the Union have gone through hard times recently, they are in possession of a sneaky unbeaten streak. Since May 25, the Union are 2-0-3. Meanwhile, the Dynamo are in a funk. After defeating D.C. United on May 8, the Dynamo have gone seven games without a win and are 0-4-3 during that span.

“We like where we are, we feel like we dropped a couple points when we shouldn’t have but at the same time we picked up points when we weren’t expected to,” Hackworth said. “In reality, most people wouldn’t have picked up to be in this position at the start of the season. We’re in a good position and we have to fight through these dog days of summer. We’re well prepared, fit and I like our mentality right now.”

But defeating the Dynamo will not come easy for the shorthanded Union. Already without Jack McInerney, Keon Daniel and Michael Lahoud, the Union lost Danny Cruz and Michael Farfan to injury against Real Salt Lake. While Kleberson may be able to return from a hamstring injury and fill in at center attacking midfielder, Hackworth’s midfield could see the likes of Don Anding, Roger Torres and Leo Fernandes play prominent roles.

“I picked up a knock against Dallas this last week and today I was just trying to play through it,” Cruz said. “While I was sprinting I could feel it pull and tighten. We got that goal early and I wanted to be smart and make sure that someone who could make the runs was getting the ball. It doesn’t hurt when I’m walking just when I’m sprinting so hopefully I can make a quick turnaround for this upcoming game on Saturday.”

One bright spot for the Union has been veteran striker Conor Casey, who was dominant against Real Salt Lake and has four goals in his last four games. With McInerney gone, Casey has taken it upon himself to power the Union offense.

“We are really, really pleased with how he is playing right now,” Hackworth said of Casey. “He’s huge for us. He allows us to play the ball forward and he holds it up. He’s creative. He’s class.”

Despite the recent disappointments, Casey likes the way the Union are playing.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Our positioning has been good, our backline has been great, midfielders have been great as a team. That is something that we are definitely dedicated to and something that we will continue to do.”