Hackworth selects dramatically different lineup vs. Fire
Captain Carlos Valdes was away on international duty. Gabriel Gomez was out for the same reason. Jack McInerney was serving a red card suspension.
With important players missing, Union interim head coach John Hackworth shuffled the deck in Philadelphia's 3-1 home loss to Chicago Sunday night.
"We were missing a couple of key guys, for sure," explained Hackworth post game. "But that's an opportunity for younger guys, and guys that haven't been playing, to step up and seize their opportunity. Actually I thought those [young] guys in particular did pretty well. So I'm not upset with those performances at all."
It wasn't just about the unavailable players. Hackworth made a number of other changes to a starting XI that has been mostly consistent for the past two months.
Rookie striker Chandler Hoffman returned from injury to earn a start alongside Keon Daniel and Freddy Adu. The Union stayed with the now-familiar 4-3-3 shape, but began with Lionard Pajoy on the bench.
Michael Farfan and Brian Carroll assumed their normal roles in the midfield, but Michael Lahoud was swapped out for Gabriel Farfan in the three-man setup.
That allowed room for Ray Gaddis to step in at left back.
"Look, Gabe Farfan is a really good soccer player," said Hackworth. "He deserves opportunities to get up [the field]. Ray Gaddis is a great soccer player, and he deserves an opportunity to get a start. So, with missing some pieces, that was the decision, that was the thinking. I'll take responsibility for all of that. But I want to make sure that we give the guys opportunities when they've really been working hard and earning it in training."
With Sheanon Williams at right back, Bakary Soumare made his Union debut alongside Amobi Okugo in central defense. Philadelphia's newest signing had an up-and-down performance on the backline.
"It was good to be out there and play 90 minutes, a little rusty obviously," said Soumare. "But I'm glad I got to play a little bit, you know? It was good, I'm feeling good. My knee is, there's no pain, nothing. So I'm very happy about that. Fitness wise, it was okay. A bit of cramping at the end, but for the most part pretty good."
Lineup changes or not, players reiterated that the performance wasn't good enough.
"You know, there's really no excuses that you can take out of this," explained Carroll. "We had a group good enough to win, and for whatever reason we just weren't able to play our best and get that done tonight. Obviously [Valdes and Gomez], with the way they've been playing, deserve their call up to the national team. But we should still find a way to win this game at home. "
"I think we came out the same way, we had a pretty good game plan," said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. "It worked for the most part, obviously we went up 1-0. We shouldn't have given up two goals in the last 5 minutes [of the first half]."