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.

NFL clears Peyton Manning of HGH allegations

NFL clears Peyton Manning of HGH allegations

NEW YORK -- The NFL says it found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning was provided with HGH or other prohibited substances as alleged in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America last fall.

The league said the quarterback and his wife fully cooperated in the seven-month investigation, providing interviews and access to all records sought by investigators. Manning vehemently denied the allegations when they were made late in the season.

Manning retired from the NFL a month after Denver's 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

The NFL is continuing its investigation into allegations made against other NFL players in the documentary, which the league said involves "different lines of inquiry and witnesses."

Eagles CB Jalen Mills rocks a green hairdo, says he kind of likes it

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Eagles CB Jalen Mills rocks a green hairdo, says he kind of likes it

Seventh-round draft pick Jalen Mills was one of the standouts of the Eagles' offseason program, quickly climbing the depth chart and impressing on the field. But on the first day of training camp, the rookie cornerback stood out for a far different reason.

As you can see, Mills' hair is green.

The LSU product turned some heads and even got a few chuckles from onlookers. Don't expect that to persuade him to go back to a more conventional look anytime soon though. Mills said he got the color done about a week ago and thinks he'll stick with it.

"Just joking with one of my friends," Mills said of how the new hairdo came about. "Then the joke, I actually came through and I actually kind of like it a little bit, so I'm gonna keep it for sure."

As for Mills' teammates, well, they've got jokes too. Let's just say the green hair has inspired some new nicknames for the first-year defensive back.

"Green Goblin. The Joker. I've heard Lime Green Skittle. Starburst," Mills said, rattling off some of the nicknames going around the locker rom. "I've been getting an earful."

Of course, Mills isn't the first Eagles player or even defensive back to sport team pride by changing the color of his locks. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie showed up to training camp with a green stripe in his hair back in 2012.

Hopefully it works out better for Mills than it did DRC, who went on to have a disastrous season. Fortunately, the 22-year-old seems to have his head on straight and is not merely vying for a roster spot, but perhaps serious playing time this season.

Mills opened up the first day of training camp with rookies and selected veterans by breaking up several passes, building on a strong offseason that saw him working with the first-team defense as the nickel corner. As for how he's gone from late-round pick to in the mix so fast, Mills credits hard work, along with his coaches and teammates.

"Just being focused and being determined," said Mills. "We've got a great coaching staff helping me, great players in the defensive back room as well, just everybody being able to help me put my first step forward.

"I'm really trying to give my all for this team and it's showing through."

It's showing through quite literally at the moment.

Video of Joel Embiid arm wrestling Justin Bieber exists

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Video of Joel Embiid arm wrestling Justin Bieber exists

He may or may not have crossed paths with Rihanna or Kim K. just yet but Philadelphia 76ers social media sensation Joel Embiid locked arms with pop star Justin Bieber over the weekend in a Los Angeles night club.

According to social media reports, Embiid and the Biebs actually competed in an arm wrestling battle at Hyde night club in L.A. It's unclear if Embiid allowed Bieber to win or not.

If you missed Embiid ripping his shirt off and dunking on fools or praising Sam Hinkie as a GOAT over the weekend as well, surely you'll want to check those out as well.