With First Kick a month away, technical staff continues to evaluate and design roster

Hackworth and Co. going to great lengths to design ideal roster

Coaches vs. KC

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

On Saturday, the calendar will read Feb. 2.

In other words, that’s just one full month until First Kick for the Philadelphia Union. A very talented Sporting Kansas City side will visit PPL Park on March 2 for this season-opening match.

One month isn’t a lot of time when there are still so many roster decisions to be made.

Does it make a technical staff anxious, nervous, excited – all of the above?

“It’s certainly a little bit of all of it – everything,” Union manager John Hackworth said after training at the NovaCare Complex and a short trip down the street to Lincoln Financial Field. “We have a lot of work to do still. We have a good plan, but with every passing day, you get a little closer. As you check things off and you go through what you’re able to accomplish, you’re not able to accomplish, you want to get there. But you want to slow down.

“These are really long days. It’s a credit to our staff and our players coming twice a day. We’re now in our second training site and when we move to Florida, it’ll be our third training site, so a lot of work has to go into all of it.”

There is so much work to be done, especially since the Union brought about 35 players (and counting) into preseason training.

“It’s pretty large,” Hackworth said of the group of players. “We could probably make four teams out of this right now. That gives our staff, all parts of our staff, from equipment, to trainers, to coaching, to our administrators, a big challenge. But we need to do that because we want to give guys a look and make sure the competition is truly at a very high level at this time of the year to try to win spots.

“There are a number of guys here and we will trim that down as we go. But it's hard to really evaluate guys unless you see them in this environment on a daily basis."

Having that type of competition has been extremely beneficial for everyone. For a player like midfielder Michael Farfan, who earned a spot on the MLS All-Star team last season, getting pushed in training is a good thing.

“Definitely,” Farfan said. “I like competition because I think it makes you a better player. It’s good to be pushed all the time in training. I think any player would like it. You want to be the best that you can and this is a way to get you there.”

Getting to First Kick will come lightning quick. It’s basically down to a 30-day sprint.

“I think all of us, whether we were here last season or not, want to improve and get better,” said second-year defender Ray Gaddis. “We’re all excited about the match against Sporting Kansas City, but we all realize how much work there is to do between now and then.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com