By LEE PRINDLE
SEATTLE- The opponent changes but the storyline remains the same for John Hackworth and the Philadelphia Union.
This time it was the Seattle Sounders who left Hackworth searching for answers as his side’s winless streak extended to eight in what is quickly becoming a routine for the Union. They showed glimpses of ability throughout the match but ultimately came away with nothing as they continue their slide down the table with 8 points in 10 games
“It’s a difficult one to take because you came in and played well in the first half and we got up a goal,” said Hackworth, “Even in the second half we had some chances to get a second one and we didn’t put those away.”
After receiving offseason plaudits for a transfer market which saw the Union sign two promising playmakers in Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana as well as USMNT midfielder Maurice Edu, expectations were certainly higher than their current 8th-place spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Union found themselves in the drivers seat early as Brad Evans flicked a header into his own net on a set piece in the 13th minute and Philadelphia did well to disrupt the midfield and contain Seattle’s offense. The second half was a different story as the Sounders made tactical adjustments and clawed their way back through goals from Obafemi Martins and Chad Marshall. The Union had several opportunities throughout the match as they finished the game with 15 shots, but only one was on target and they were ultimately overpowered by Seattle’s expensive and prolific offense.
Once again Hackworth’s lineup tinkering did not payoff and once again the opposing team made second half adjustments that Philadelphia were unable to match. The pressure for points is surely rising as the Union’s position on the table continues to fall. After barely missing last years playoffs and securing a handful of solid offseason signings, John Hackworth has found himself on the hot seat.
“Right now our issues are our team, not so much individuals. We have a lot of guys that are playing good,” he said, “We continue to make mistakes in some critical moments.”
It’s wasn’t all bad news for Philadelphia as Nogueira had several moments of positive link up play with his teammates and Maurice Edu looks more comfortable in the center of the park with each game.
“Mo’s a good player; he’s done a really good job for us. I thought he had a good game today,” said Hackworth, “ I think he’s proven game in and game out that he’s capable of playing at a very high level.”
Additionally, Zac MacMath was not at fault for either goal and he did his part by stopping a penalty, giving him an impressive three saves in three tries on the season.
There are positives moving forward, as Hackworth stated.
“We take way that we can come into probably one of the most difficult environments in the MLS and compete and play with in my opinion probably the best team in the league right now and we had an opportunity to get a result tonight. Once again we kind of let ourselves down.”
Fortunately for the Union, a parity driven league such as MLS means they can bounce back with a good run of form and a few wins. In order to do that, they’ll need a more consistent scoring threat than Andrew Wenger and Conor Casey have been able to provide.
Whether Philadelphia’s scoring problems can be attributed to the player or the system is up for debate, as the Union have gone through a variety of forward options with each striker ultimately looking isolated and struggling for goals.
And while forward-turned-centerback Aaron Wheeler hasn’t looked out of place on in the middle of the defense, the Union could certainly use improved organization and distribution from the back.
The Union’s search for a win continues next week as they return home to face Eastern Conference foe DC United.