As empty seats multiply at PPL Park, Saturday could be judgment day for Union manager Hackworth

As empty seats multiply at PPL Park, Saturday could be judgment day for Union manager Hackworth

Union manager John Hackworth has plenty of pressure on his shoulders this season.

This week, I've gotten two emails from the Union pushing tickets for this Saturday's home game against D.C. United (4 p.m. - The Comcast Network). One was about honoring mom for Mother's Day by bringing her to the game, and the other offered a sharp discount offer on the pricier tickets at PPL Park.

Those emails -- and the empty seats that caused them -- are what should have Union manager John Hackworth looking over his shoulder, and what I think could force a change at the top as early as next week, if the fans who do show up on Saturday leave PPL Park disappointed yet again.

There's no doubt Hackworth is feeling the heat.

“We’re going to have to get out of this hole we dug, one step at a time,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com after the 2-1 loss to Seattle last weekend.. “But I know there’s only so much time to have that opportunity.”

I'm never one to call for a coach's firing prematurely. When I said in the preseason that this year was Hackworth's chance to put up or shut up, I assumed that meant he'd get the entire season to figure it out. And he still might. Changing coaches in the middle of the season won't lead to anything more than maybe a short-lived kick in the butt.

This is me, on the record, saying that while I think Hackworth is not the answer, I don't think a midseason firing is either.

But things have been so underwhelming, and so disappointing, that Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz (under pressure from investors weary of a long summer at the turnstiles) may have to pull the trigger much, much sooner, just to appeal to frustrated fans who are tired of spending their money to watch a team that can't score. Even as soon as Sunday or Monday if things don't go well on Saturday.

The Union not only need a win against a decent but beatable D.C. United team, but they need to entertain. They need to show some growth. They need to show some initiative. They need to show some chemistry. They showed a little bit of that in Seattle last weekend, but in the end, it was the same old story: shoulda, coulda, woulda.

The team's near-bottom-of-the-table standing isn't what will push the change. Nor will it be because vocal Union fans on the Internet calling for his head (some have been calling for it since the day he was hired).

It'll be the hard-to-ignore swaths of blue seats sitting empty on Saturday.

If you're at PPL Park, take a look toward the corners, especially the two corners close to the Delaware River. On Saturday, section 133 will be relatively full because D.C. United will bring a large contingent. But sections 101 and 102, as well as 113 and 121 are usually the last ones sold.

While paid attendance has been decent so far this season (according to this site, the team is averaging 94 percent capacity at 17,415), the warm summer months are coming. Kids are almost done with school, tailgating weather is improving, and the Union -- like every MLS team -- are hoping to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the World Cup next month.

Sakiewicz and Co. obviously hoped that the on-field results would fill PPL to capacity through those warm summer months. But if things don't turn around soon, he might have to show Hackworth the door just so he can stand up and say that he really is in it to win it.

Sure, there are other ways for the team to appeal to frustrated fans. The front office could make a splashy move in the summer transfer window (Jozy Altidore to the white courtesy phone...). Hell, they could just unveil another new jersey or offer 10 percent off at the Union Store.

Just kidding.

Firing Hackworth won't solve the Union's problems. Along those lines, it's about time for the players to stand up and take some responsibility for the dumpster fire this season is quickly becoming. Many of them have not performed anywhere near their potential (not you, Zac MacMath ... you're excused).

But at this point, if things don't turn around, Hackworth may be the sacrificial lamb intended to appease frustrated fans.

The Union have six games before the World Cup break.

John Hackworth might be watching some of them on TV.

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

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AP

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

STAMFORD, Conn. – January 19, 2017 – NBC Sports Regional Networks today announced an agreement with MLBAM to stream local market MLB games, as well as pre- and postgame shows, beginning with the 2017 regular season. This new streaming offering is available at no additional cost to authenticated pay TV subscribers of NBC Sports Group’s CSN regional sports networks (RSNs). This local initiative advances NBCUniversal’s implementation of “TV Everywhere,” which strives to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home, and on multiple platforms.

CSN’s local streaming allows authenticated viewers in their respective markets to live stream games and related programming that is carried by their pay TV provider of the Chicago Cubs (CSN Chicago), Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago), Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia), Oakland Athletics (CSN California) and San Francisco Giants (CSN Bay Area). Game broadcast schedules will be announced at a later date.

“This is a home run for our local sports fans,” said David Preschlack, President, NBC Sports Regional Networks, and NBC Sports Group Platform and Content Strategy. “We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our fans and provide comprehensive coverage of their favorite teams. With the addition of MLB in-market streaming rights, they don’t have to miss a pitch.”

The addition of MLB authenticated in-market streaming completes the local streaming portfolio for the NBC Sports Regional Networks, which also includes local NBA and NHL live streaming. The RSNs first introduced NBA streaming in 2014 and last fall announced the addition of NHL in-market streaming, beginning with the 2016-17 season. 

The NBC Sports Regional Networks now have partnerships for in-market streaming of the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s (CSN Bay Area/CSN California); Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago); Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals (CSN Mid-Atlantic); Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia); and Boston Celtics (CSN New England).

Authenticated CSN subscribers can access live MLB, NBA and NHL games, as well as other sports programming, anywhere in the United States.  During the 2017 MLB season, all in-market MLB games will be streamed on the respective local CSN regional network site on PCs as well as on the NBC Sports app—NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets and connected TVs. The NBC Sports app is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. 

Phillies games can be streamed live on CSNPhilly.com in 2017

Phillies games can be streamed live on CSNPhilly.com in 2017

Phillies fans, you will be able to watch all of your team's games on a live stream on CSNPhilly.com during the 2017 season.

The live streaming service will be available at no additional cost to authenticated CSN Philadelphia and TCN Philadelphia subscribers as part of an agreement between NBC Sports Regional Networks and Major League Baseball Advanced Media that was announced today.

Fans of the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants can also stream their team's games on their local CSN websites.

The addition of Major League Baseball games completes a local streaming portfolio for NBC's Regional Sports Networks. The RSNs began streaming local NBA games in 2014 and added local NHL games this season. Authenticated subscribers have the ability to access their team's games when traveling outside of their region, provided they are within the U.S.

In addition to being able to watch a live stream of all Phillies game action, authenticated CSN subscribers will be able to watch Pregame Live and Postgame Live before and after the game.

Authenticated CSN subscribers wishing to stream their local MLB, NBA or NHL team on their desktop, mobile device, tablet or connected TV must first download the NBC Sports app. It is powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.