Union confident in Hackworth's ability to lead club
CHESTER, Pa. -- John Hackworth has been part of the Philadelphia Union brand since the inception of the franchise.
That won't change. But beginning Wednesday, his role has been altered.
After the Union announced that team manager Peter Nowak had stepped down, Hackworth was quickly elevated as interim team manager, effective immediately. The 42-year-old Hackworth has filled in many times as the head coach in league games, international friendlies and U.S. Open Cup matches.
Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz named Hackworth to the top spot with sporting director Diego Gutierrez, goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian and reserve team coach Brendan Burke remaining in their current capacities with the club.
“Coach Hackworth has always been part of this and I have an immense amount of comfort with him leading our guys,” Sakiewicz said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at PPL Park. “This is a man of extreme high character, and I can say that because I’ve known John for 100 years. … John is more than capable of leading this team. This is a coach that has coached in two World Cups and confederations tournaments and has managed young players.
“He has coached at the very highest international level as well as the club level, and as a former player himself, he knows the ropes. I have no doubt that we’re going to continue the momentum with the team on the field and just get better as the season goes. There’s a tremendous amount of soccer left to be played.”
Hackworth came to the Union after spending two years alongside Nowak as an assistant coach with the U.S. Men’s National Team under Bob Bradley, helping guide the squad to a first place finish in group play in World Cup Qualifying and a second place finish in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Peter Nowak,” said Hackworth, who spent four seasons as the head coach at the University of South Florida and five years as the top assistant at Wake Forest University. “He and I had discussions about what it would be like to work together and to start a new franchise. Peter’s a dear friend of mine and a lot of things we did together I’ll remember forever, and I’m very thankful to him for those opportunities.
“But at the same time, I’m very excited about this one. I’m humbled to be in charge of this organization, of this team, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I think there’s tons of potential in our locker room and I’m very excited to get to work.”
Hackworth, a 1992 graduate of Wake Forest, will be tested immediately with a match looming Saturday night at PPL Park against I-95 rival D.C. United. It will be the first of many challenges on the way in the coming weeks.
“I’m going to steal one of Nick’s lines -- It’s not my first rodeo,” Hackworth said. “I was a college coach for nine years. I was a head coach in college for four. I was head coach of the national team for over four years. Even here, I’ve been head coach numerous times, so I don’t think any of that is going to be different. Again, for me, just so you guys know, I don’t think this should be about John Hackworth. The focal point of this and this organization is that I’m very honored to be in this position. But at the same time, I think it’s about our players, our team and fans and this organization putting all those things first. If I do my job right, they’ll be prepared. Hopefully, we’ll get a good result.”
Hackworth said he plans on putting his own stamp on the club with some minor tweaks here and there.
He’ll simply continue to work the same way he always has – with intense preparation and passion.
“I’m not Peter Nowak; I’m John Hackworth,” he said. “I’m going to continue to do things the way I’ve done it and to work with my staff and my players. I believe in the players we have right now. We have a young locker room, one of the youngest teams in the league. There’s guys in there fighting and scrapping every day and want a chance. From ownership and the support I’ve been given, there will be some changes. There will be some new faces out there.
“But at the same time, as Nick said earlier, we played some really good soccer this year. Our record does not reflect how good we are. It’s not like you’re going to see a whole new team or lineup out there on Saturday for sure.”
WATCH: Sakiewicz announces coaching change, Hackworth reacts