Hackworth: Slow Start Made Us Better

Union coach thinks early struggles have hardened side for '11

CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union went through the usual growing pains of an expansion franchise this year – they opened their inaugural season with a 2-7-1 start.

As 2010 draws to a close, however, Coach John Hackworth realizes the team is better as a result of the slow start.

“We’re a team now,” Hackworth said. “Back then, we were a bunch of individuals. No matter how you try to slice it, we were a bunch of individuals coming together who wanted to build something. We had to find our identity, our personality and the way we wanted to play.

“This group knows that now. We had quality in the beginning and played some good soccer, we were still building something. That takes time.”

The team has slowly been able to build a competitive team that has taken many strong opponents to the brink, including a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hackworth credits a much improved knowledge on the field for why his side have played so much better in the latter portions of the season.

“We got better as a team in our attacking mobility,” Hackworth said. “I think if you look at all the games we’ve played, we were very good with our backs making runs forward and being dynamic. Now, we’re a little more of a cohesive unit when we do that.

“We don’t give up as much when we use some of the movement we did earlier in the year. Before, we might have sent Jordan Harvey forward and there wasn’t cover for him. We’ve done a better job of still playing how we want to, but covering for each other and being prepared in all aspects of the game.”

With the playoff-bound Columbus Crew the only team standing between the Union and their first offseason, getting a result in Sunday's match would be a huge boost as the team ends its competitive schedule.

According to Hackworth, finishing in good form will pay huge dividends as the team builds toward the 2011 campaign.

“For us, it’s another opportunity to go out on a positive note,” Hackworth said. “We’ve played well here in our last couple matches. We want to continue that. Truthfully, in any endeavor, the way you end and the way you start, there is some connectivity there. We feel that if we end on a positive note, we’ll come back in the preseason and feel good about what we’ve done here.”

Shane Evans covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. You can reach Shane for comments on his Twitter account @shanEvans.

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