Union Notebook: Williams back at RB, Hoppenot a 'sparkplug'

Hackworth: Williams "one of the best right backs in the league"

Williams vs. DC

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

CHESTER, Pa. – One of the first things John Hackworth did upon taking over as Philadelphia Union interim manager was moving Sheanon Williams from center back to right back.

And that’s where Williams is going to stay.

“He’s one of the best right backs in the league,” Hackworth said following the Union’s 1-0 loss to D.C. United on Saturday. “And he’s a 22-year-old kid. He can get better and he I certainly hope he does.”

WATCH: Williams fires from distance

Under former manager Peter Nowak, Williams had been used primarily as a center back after Danny Califf was traded to Chivas USA in mid-May. Williams said he was happy to do whatever was best for the team, but also made it no secret that right back is his favorite position.

And he showed why on Saturday, playing an outstanding game that included a few nice runs down the wing, while Amobi Okugo ably filled the team’s hole at center back.

“It seem like it’s been a long time and I guess it had been,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “It was nice to be able to go forward again. It was nice to be able to help the team in the attack. That’s something I like to do. And I would think the coaching staff would want me to do that.”

Hoppenot a ‘sparkplug’

Antoine Hoppenot is quickly becoming the Union’s most dangerous player off the bench.

Less than two weeks after scoring the game-winning overtime goal against D.C. United in the US Open Cup, the Union rookie nearly had another dramatic goal against the same team, hitting the post shortly after coming in as a second-half sub Saturday.

“He’s a little diamond, isn’t he?” Hackworth said. “He’s a sparkplug. He’s dangerous. He stretches people and he’s deceptively tougher than them too. Now we need to get him to find that last ball a little better and finish, and I think that’s going to come for sure.”

Hoppenot, who was selected in the third round of the MLS Supplemental Draft, has a pretty simple reason behind his recent success.

“They just tell me to go out there and run,” he said. “I get out there and run toward the goal. If the ball is near the goal, hopefully I can put it in.”

Carroll ‘saddened’ by Nowak’s exit

The Union’s sudden midweek coaching change invariably brought on mixed emotions among the club’s players. It was especially emotional for MLS veteran Brian Carroll, who first played for Nowak as a second-year midfielder for D.C. United in 2004.

“I was saddened and sorry for Peter for all he’s done for me as the coach with D.C. United and with the national team and here in Philadelphia,” Carroll said. “I wish him luck in everything he does going forward.”

At the same time, the Union’s longest-tenured MLS player also expressed admiration for the club’s “professional transition,” as well as what the future holds with Hackworth in charge.

“[Hackworth] is a tremendous coach with a lot of coaching experience, from the youth national team to college to now professional,” Carroll said. “And I think he’ll do a tremendous job going forward for this club.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.