Looking Forward with a Look Back Its Go Time for Hackworths Union

Looking Forward with a Look Back Its Go Time for Hackworths Union

Apparently it’s become a thing to download your
Twitter archive, just to see how stupid you sounded when you first created
your account.

My first few tweets were boring replies to the likes
of Grant Wahl and Bill Simmons. My first “real” tweet was,
not surprisingly, Union-related.

March 25, 2010: @smoore1117: Counting down to @Union2010 season opener
tonight! Got the jersey on and ready to go. See you at Dark Horse! 

See?
Sounds stupid, right?

Anyway,
I scrolled up to see my thoughts on January 31, 2012, when Peter Nowak
traded Sebastien Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps. I went Twitter-crazy
that day, but here’s a few that stuck out:

- “It is very possible that Le
Toux has shown his best already. It could be a "sell high"
scenario that works out great for us.”

- “It definitely sucks. But the
team has to take emotion out of decisions. especially in a league where
money is inherently tight.”

- “Not saying I like it, or that
I have blind faith. But we only look at it with emotion. Team has to
use everything but."

- “If you think Le Toux just
gave you the 2 best years he has, then u sell high & get a huge
return on a guy you got for nothing. Still sucks.” 

This
does more than prove that I am that guy who uses “u” in tweets.
It proves that I, like many Union people, bought into “in Nowak we
trust.” Every time he made a move that seemed strange, I’d see that
tweet fill my timeline. “In Nowak we trust.”

One
year, one manager and 18 horrendous losses later, I feel like the guy
who made that first tweet before the Union’s first-ever game in 2010.
Excited for the season opener, but with absolutely, positively no idea
what I’ll see when I get there. 

So,
using my newly unearthed Twitter Archive, I give you the 2013 Philadelphhia
Union.

October 27, 2012: “Can't wait to read this week's "Final Whistle
with Hack". I'm hoping it's just a long list of players we're cutting” 

OK,
so we didn’t cut him, per se, but the player who shall not be named
will not be at PPL Park on Saturday. As you know, I was somewhat of
a fan, but I’m glad we’ve moved on. Many would say he doesn’t
need to be replaced, since he didn’t bring much to the table. But
someone has to orchestrate the midfield.

Often
that point guard falls to a strong holding midfielder. Brian Carroll
is a great anchor in the center, but by no means is he a playmaker.
Amobi Okugo could be that guy near the back, if Hack does what I hope
he will and move him into the midfield, but not just yet. 

So,
in more words than were necessary: It’s Roger Torres time.

I
haven’t been as impressed with Torres as many in this town, but he
hasn’t had much time to prove himself. That needs to change. No Union
player has more creativity and individual skill than Torres, and it’s
time to see him do something he has never done: 

Go
90 minutes.

That’s
right, the kid is 22 years old and full of energy, and he has NEVER
played 90 minutes for the Union. Much of that was Nowak’s unexplained
skepticism and obsession with overcoaching in the final minutes, and
some had to do with nagging injuries. 

But
according to Hackworth, whose “expectations are pretty high about
what he is capable of,” according to an MLSsoccer.com article,
Torres is injury-free and ready to play. Much like the rest of the roster,
it’s put up or shut up time. Put him in the starting 11, give him
targets up front, and take your hands off the wheel.



November 4, 2011: “Neither Farfan came to play tonight. Just like
everyone else.” 

I’m
still very skeptical about Gabriel Farfan at left back. He never seemed
comfortable and was often bailed out by Carlos Valdes and Okugo last
year. Valdes is gone, Okugo is (hopefully) moving to the midfield, and
it will likely take Jeff Parke and Bakary Soumare (or Okugo) some time
to figure things out in the middle of defense.

The
Union tried to draft for the position – sort of – in forward
Don Anding, who Hackworth says can play in the back. But it appears
to be Farfan’s job to lose. 

A
little farther upfield sits the other Farfan, Michael, whom many see
as the new midfield anchor and playmaker. Ask any Farfan fans about
him, and they’ll mention the sublime
chip goal against Real Madrid
. Call me skeptical,
but I’m not sold. Maybe with actual targets up front, things will
change. But Farfan often got a free pass for many of the same mistakes
made by he-who-shall-not-be-named. 

I’m
still not sure Farfan isn’t better served playing outside than in
the middle. But if Hackworth goes with the 4-3-3 he seems to be working
on, maybe Farfan will find his place alongside Le Toux and Conor Casey
(or Jack McInerney). 

September 30, 2012: “Also, I'm sure MacMath is staying, and that's
fine. But I'm not as high on him as I used to be.”

At
the end of this season, there needs to be six-to-nine points in the
standings that can be credited solely to Zac MacMath. Team can’t keep
the ball? Make a few big saves. Defense hangs you out to dry? Make the
stop no one expects. Get outshot 15-3? Secure the 0-0 draw. 

He
doesn’t need to be the locker room leader Faryd Mondragon was, but
MacMath needs to take charge in the back. He has the athleticism, let’s
see if he has the makeup to lead a team out of the doldrums.


April
3, 2011: “Keon Daniel is all over the ball. Looks more comfortable
on the ball than anyone we have right now.”

Keon
Daniel may be the wildcard this year when it comes to trying to predict
the regular lineup. I think Danny Cruz is the Saturday starter on the
right side of midfield, but Daniel is a much different player who could
occupy the same position. Daniel is a creative wing midfielder, while
Cruz gets by on his effort and tenacity. 

If
Daniel proves to be a spark off the bench who can contribute in the
final third, Cruiz might be supplanted. But if the defense can’t hold
things down and needs the help, Daniel might not be a luxury Hackworth
can afford.

January 22, 2013: “If they get anything for Adu & want to spend
DP $, it should be on a veteran in MF. Too many young guys playing at
once.” 

The
biggest off-field question is this: If the team has a glaring need after 8-to-10 games (and I’m sure it will), will the money it’s currently
wasting on Unnamed Midfielder stop Hackworth and Co. from pulling the
trigger?

It might prevent a move for Messi or Ronaldo, most
likely, but there’s always Joey Barton.


December 6, 2012: “Love the "Le Toux doesn't
fit in our system" tweets. What system? The one that doesn't score
goals and doesn't win games?”

If trading away Le Toux was bizarre, the Twitter reaction
to his return was downright insane. On the day Hackworth fixed one of
Nowak’s biggest mistakes, there were plenty of tweets about Le Toux
“not being as good as he was,” or “not fitting into our system.”

Listen, do I think Le Toux is Messi or Benzema? Absolutely
not. But he’s better than anything we used last season in the same
position, and sincerely, genuinely never wanted to leave. Call me naïve,
but I think that’s just as important as individual skill.

Le Toux is not only old enough and mature enough to
become a leader of a young team, but he seems to have a relationship
with Hackworth that allows the Frenchman to speak his mind if he feels
he could be used in a better way.

He’s not a savior, but his return marks a big step
forward for the franchise, both on and off the field.

* * *

I’ll
be back on Saturday with a few Predictions Sure to Fail, as well as
a glance at Sporting Kansas City, a tough test out of the gate for the
Union. 

In
the meantime, it’s officially March. And the season opens tomorrow.
Get your beanbag tosses dusted off.

We’re
plenty excited, a little more skeptical and a lot less forgiving. 

Your
move, John Hackworth.

Follow
Steve on Twitter @smoore1117.


Union-Crew 5 things: Still in good position, Jim Curtin's club looks to rebound

Union-Crew 5 things: Still in good position, Jim Curtin's club looks to rebound

Union at Crew
7:30 p.m. on TCN

Despite being dominated by Toronto FC on Saturday, the Union (9-9-7) managed to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, thanks to a handful of fortunate results around the league. But if the club wants to better its odds for the postseason, it needs to take care of business at Mapfre Stadium on Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew (4-8-11).

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Playoff push
It hasn’t been a convincing few weeks for the Union. Although the club still sits fourth in the Eastern Conference despite one win in its last six games, it needs points to stay afloat. That quest begins on Wednesday against the Crew.

“The focus is getting points,” Union defender Richie Marquez said. “For us, home or away, we need three points because we need to solidify that playoff spot.”

As of now the Union are in snug playoff position with 34 points — one ahead of the Montreal Impact and six in front of D.C. United and Orlando City for the sixth and final playoff spot. On the plus side, the club is one point behind the New York Red Bulls with a game in hand.

“It’s a push to get into the playoffs and try to see how high we can end up in the table,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “It’s important we don’t look too much at the standings because anything can happen in this league. It’s all really tight. It’s important we go to Columbus with the right mentality and come back to Philly with three points.”

2. Coming off a loss
Speaking of the playoff push, the Union’s dream of being a top-two seed in the East took a major hit on Saturday in a 3-1 bashing by Toronto FC. The loss put Toronto up six and New York City FC up seven on the Union. 

Worst of all, it crushed all Union momentum coming out of a 4-0 win over the New England Revolution a week prior. Still, the club maintains its confidence heading into Wednesday.

“I feel good about this team and the players we have,” Bedoya said. “The goals we gave up were too easy. We have talent on this team, but there’s little things we have to fix. Once we get those right, we’ll be tough to break down.” 

As Jim Curtin explained, the short turnaround from Saturday actually works in the Union’s favor. 

“We were smart with how we managed the past two days in terms of getting the guys massages, taking care of their bodies, eating right and getting enough sleep,” he said. “They’ll be ready to go, they’re itching to get the bad taste out of their mouth after the Toronto game.”

3. Win-starved Crew
With the help of Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain, the Crew took down the floundering Revolution over the weekend. But that’s nothing to celebrate over. It was just the club’s fourth win of the season and second since May 28. 

The Crew are currently closer to having the lowest point total in MLS than a playoff spot.

“It’s been tough,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a team that I believe in deeply but it’s natural that confidence dips when you don’t get the results. It’s about believing in our playing style and fine-tuning things, approving in some areas. I think we did that in the last game.” 

Though the Crew attempt to climb out of the basement on Wednesday, they know what they are up against. The Union took the first season meeting against the Crew, 2-1, and the second, 3-2. 

“They added Bedoya, who is a quality player,” Berhalter said. “Other than that, it’s similar to what they’ve been doing all year with [C.J.] Sapong and talented players behind him. Bedoya makes a good difference there, but they are a solid group and they’ll play with intensity. From our side, we’ll have to be smart how we approach the game.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: Facing the Crew twice this season, the Union have five goals. Chris Pontius has three of them. The Union forward scored the brace on March 12, then buried another on June 1. 

Crew: MLS rookie Ola Kamara leads the Crew with 10 goals, including one against the Union on June 1. Since May 28, the forward has 10 goals and one assist in 12 games.

5. This and that
• Facing the Crew has always been tough for the Union. Including two wins this season, the Union are 6-10-1 against the Crew all-time.

• The Union have only suffered back-to-back losses twice this season, and both times it happened in the club’s last 10 games.

• Of Kamara’s 10 goals this season, six have come at home. 

• The first-ever meeting between the Union and Crew happened on Aug. 5, 2010, and was a 2-1 loss for the Union. Sebastien Le Toux scored a penalty kick but Steven Lenhart buried the brace.

How Jim Schwartz changed Stephen Tulloch's career

How Jim Schwartz changed Stephen Tulloch's career

Stephen Tulloch hasn’t just had a successful NFL career under Jim Schwartz. He’s had a successful career because of Jim Schwartz.

“I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Schwartz,” Tulloch said following his first practice with the Eagles (see story).

On Tuesday, the Eagles’ newest linebacker credited Schwartz for the Titans’ drafting him with the 116th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft. He said Schwartz pushed for him, “when nobody else really wanted to go after” him.

“I’ll leave you with this story,” Tulloch began.

“So in 2006, I go to the NFL combine. I measure in at 5-10 and some change, whatever I was. It was the second day of the draft and [the Titans] were about to draft a guy from another school, so Coach Schwartz goes into [Jeff] Fisher’s office and makes a little tape of my highlights from college, and (former Titans linebackers coach) Dave McGinnis at the time. He changed Coach Fisher’s mind and Floyd Reese at the time was the general manager. I was the 116th pick in the [2006] draft. That was it. I came to Tennessee and the rest was history.”

So, who was the player the Titans almost drafted?

“I’m not gonna put it out there,” he said. “It was another guy and I’m fortunate enough to get drafted and still be here in the league.”

The decision worked out well for the Titans. Eventually, Tulloch became a starter and played five total years in Tennessee before moving on to Detroit. 

As for the other linebackers in the 2006 draft, well, Tulloch was one of 15 linebackers taken in the fourth round or later in 2006. To date, Tulloch has started 111 games. The other 14 have started a combined 138.

The other two linebackers taken in the fourth round in 2006 were Leon Williams to the Browns and Jamar Williams to the Bears. Leon Williams (pick No. 110) last played in 2012 and started just 12 NFL games, while Jamar Williams (pick No. 120) played five years and has just three career starts to his name.

Tulloch is still going strong. And he owes a lot to Jim Schwartz.

“I always thank him for the opportunity I had in Tennessee,” Tulloch said.

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — On the whole, the Phillies have made steady progress in their rebuild this season.

Cameron Rupp has improved. Maikel Franco has had a nice year. Odubel Herrera, even with his recent inconsistency, has had more ups than downs. Cesar Hernandez has been on a good roll. Freddy Galvis has 36 extra-base hits, and Tommy Joseph has opened eyes with his power. In the bullpen, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos have shown that they just might be future studs.
 
For a good chunk of the season, the young starting pitching has shown promise, as well.
 
But lately, that corner of the team has taken some hits. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin were both ruled out for the remainder of the season last week with elbow and knee injuries, respectively, and hard-throwing Vince Velasquez has been tagged for 19 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
 
Jake Thompson’s first four major-league starts haven’t exactly inspired confidence, either. The 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard in a 9-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). He gave up eight hits, including five for extra bases, and seven runs as his ERA swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
“I’m not used to this,” Thompson said after the defeat. “I feel certain that I’m a lot better than my performance has indicated.”
 
Few pitchers come to the big leagues and dazzle right away. There is a learning curve and occasionally growing pains. But no one expected Thompson to have this much trouble out of the chute, not after what he did in his final 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
Thompson went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
He was advertised as a control and command pitcher. He has yet to show that in the majors.
 
“A lot of it has to do with his age and, I think, the fact he’s in the big leagues for the first time trying to make a good impression,” manager Peter Mackanin said. “He probably feels like he needs to make perfect pitches every time. All he’s got to do is keep the ball down. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He relies on command and control and he hasn’t shown that. I attribute a lot of that to his youth and inexperience.”
 
So does Rupp, the catcher.
 
“How many guys do you see come to the big leagues at 22 years old and just flat out dominate every time they go out?” Rupp said. “Not very many. He's young. It was his first time in Triple A this year and he pitched really well and now he's got a chance in the big leagues. I'm sure he feels like there's pressure. When you come up and you pitch so well all year and then you finally get your opportunity, you want to impress. It puts a lot on you. And as a kid, you've got to be able to control it and it's tough. It's hard.

“Nobody wants to see anybody fail. It's hard to go through. It's something that's going to make him better when he does finally figure it out."
 
Two of the walks Thompson gave up Tuesday night became runs. He gave up back-to-back homers to Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau in the fifth inning as the White Sox turned it into a rout.
 
“Just too many pitches up in the strike zone,” Mackanin said. “Everything he threw was thigh high, waist high. He couldn’t get the ball down. It’s as simple as that.”
 
Thompson concurred with his manager.
 
“The issue is pretty evident,” he said. “I'm not throwing strikes and when I am throwing strikes, they're not good strikes. It’s a frustrating thing because it's a relatively easy thing to do. I don't really have the answer right now to fix it.”
 
The game moves fast at the big-league level and confidence can become bruised quickly. Thompson said his confidence was unshaken. Still, Phillies officials have to be careful that this difficult baptism to the majors does not snowball and become something that adversely impacts Thompson's growth.
 
“It’s something that you’re concerned about and I’m concerned about,” Mackanin said.
 
Concerned enough that Thompson might not make his next start?
 
Mackanin said he expected Thompson to stay in the rotation, but added that he would speak with general manager Matt Klentak on the topic.
 
“I don’t want to see him keep getting beat up and keep struggling like this,” Mackanin said. “We’ll talk about it and see what Matt wants to do.”