PBPP: Coaching change alters storyline for Saturday

Hackworth's first game in charge adds wrinkle to D.C. match

Prior to Wednesday's announcement of a coaching change, there were already other intriguing storylines to follow as the Union return to MLS action for the first time since May 26.

Saturday would mark the PPL Park debut of new striker Jorge Perlaza, obtained in the recent Danny Mwanga trade.

Zac MacMath and Roger Torres are expected to return to MLS duty following their injuries.

The Union will try to snap a five-game winless streak vs. a surprising D.C. United team, sitting atop the Eastern Conference following a three-game home win streak.

These storylines all drop down the list now that a change has been made on the sideline.

Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz cited “philosophical differences" in announcing the coaching change that will see coach John Hackworth replace Peter Nowak with the title of interim team manager.

Hackworth is an experienced coach at all levels, from youth to full international, plus college and pro. He takes over a team that has sputtered to a 2-7-2 start to the season. Part of the problem has been a struggling offense that has only scored eight goals, with just three players scoring. Only once in 11 games has the team scored more than one goal, and that resulted in a 3-2 loss at home vs. New York.

Perhaps Perlaza can help in that department. At least that's the hope. A possible forward pairing of Perlaza and Lionard Pajoy will have to wait at least a week as Pajoy is suspended for this Saturday's match vs D.C.
 
One would think that with a coaching change, plus another sellout crowd at PPL Park, the Union will come out strong at home on Saturday. No doubt, DC United understands that's a distinct possibility. No one ever likes to play a team that has just made a coaching change.

These next few games are very important to the Union. With only a third of the games having been played, it's certainly not too late to make a playoff push, but wins are needed sooner, rather than later. Philadelphia currently sit 10 points behind fifth-place Chicago, with two games in hand. Win those two and the gap becomes only four points.

For the Union, a new season begins Saturday vs. United. Let's see how it plays out. 

Other thoughts

With MLS returning from a break because of the international calendar, it will be interesting to see how teams look following two to three weeks away from MLS competition.

Here are some stories to follow this weekend:

  • How will Paul Mariner fare in his first game as head coach of Toronto FC, having just replaced Aron Winter? His first game in charge is a tough one, on the road at Sporting Kansas City.
  • Can the LA Galaxy make a push towards the playoffs? Their first game in over three weeks is home vs. Portland on Saturday. For the Galaxy, it's a seven-game winless streak they are trying to snap. They are at least getting their number one goalkeeper back. Josh Saunders is now eligible to play after missing games while being enrolled in the MLS substance abuse and behavioral health treatment program. The 2011 MLS Cup winners are in last place in the Western Conference, which is still shocking to me.
  • Can the New York Red Bulls continue to roll after this break from competition?  Prior to the break, the club ran off a six-game unbeaten streak that included five wins. Their 8-3-2 start is the best 13-game start to a season in their history. The Red Bulls are in Chicago on Sunday. New York's four road wins are matched only by San Jose.

It's good to have MLS action back after the break. There are seven Saturday games, followed by two on Sunday.

Enjoy your MLS weekend.

WATCH: Sakiewicz announces coaching change