PBPP: Union turn corner in Hackworth's debut

Finishing eludes Philadelphia, but arrow pointing up under interim manager

A standing room only crowd at PPL Park witnessed an electric atmosphere and perhaps the best performance of the season from the Philadelphia Union this past Saturday.

Under the direction of interim manager John Hackworth, the Union were the better team for 90 minutes, outplaying the Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United in every area but the scoreboard. While at this point the team would rather win ugly than lose by playing the beautiful game, there was plenty to like about this last performance.

Hackworth tinkered a bit with the lineup by returning Sheanon Williams to his normal right back spot. He also gave starts to Jack McInerney and Josue Martinez up top, and went with a true 4-3-3 formation.

The changes resulted in a 15-7 edge in shots (4-3 in shots on goal), and a 7-2 edge in corners. This coming from a team that entered the night at the bottom of the league in terms of both shots and shots on goal. In addition, the team had 55.2 percent ball possession. While at times that is a very misleading stat, I don't think it was in this case. The Union played with energy, vision and freedom. Had they been able to finish off even one of their chances, this would have had a different ending.

To me, the best player on the Union was Williams. Returning to his natural position, he looked dangerous on the attack and made several key passes that got the offense going. When playing more recently as a central defender, his offensive production was lost. 

Another positive came from the bench where Antoine Hoppenot could have scored a couple of goals. He brought instant energy and creative runs to the table, nearly scoring within minutes of his insertion into the game.

While disappointed with the loss, Hackworth was quick to point out post-game that if the Union played other games like they did this one, the results would be more positive. They looked good in all areas of the field except for one, which is finishing. It's been the single factor that has cost Philadelphia most this year.

The defensive effort was solid for almost 90 minutes. They were going up against the number one offense in MLS and allowed just the one goal on a free kick that came as a result of a very questionable call.

They'll need another solid defensive effort when they face Sporting Kansas City this coming Saturday at PPL Park.

Will Hackworth go with the same 11 he went with last week or will we see Lionard Pajoy (back from suspension) and Gabriel Gomez return to the starting lineup? Is there more playing time in the cards for Hoppenot and newcomer Jorge Perlaza?
   
Those answers will come Saturday.

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