Manager Hackworth dishes on Union's "fullback situation"

Hackworth confident in "good nucleus" of fullbacks

Damani, Albright at YSC

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

It was widely believed that John Hackworth would bolster his roster this offseason at a position of need: left back.

Chatter among analysts and media types suggested that signing or drafting a natural left back would allow current starter Gabriel Farfan to return to his natural midfield position.

That's not exactly going to happen.

In a letter sent to season ticket holders this weekend, Hackworth explained that the technical staff did not pursue a left back because they were lining up the signing of Damani Richards.

Here's a snippet from that letter:

"...Damani is a true left back and we feel as though he had more potential to be developed than any left back we saw in the draft. Yes he’s young and we need to develop him, but this is a player with international experience, who is extremely gifted athletically. The chatter of us needing to draft a left back was laughable because we knew what we had in Damani."

Hackworth elaborated further following Monday's open training session.

"I think as a starting point it should be said that Gabe Farfan is our starting left back," Hackworth revealed to reporters. "He is, without a doubt, one of the best left backs in terms of just soccer ability. He might not be a true left back, but the way that we play, our style, we want our left back to be an attacking player and he's very good at that. Not to say that he was perfect last year. He's still a young guy, who, two years into that position was developing. That's where we start from."

The Union manager says he's not averse to using right sided, right footed fullbacks Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis on the left side of the formation. Both players have filled in at left back before.

"Then you have some other outside backs that can play on the right or the left," continued Hackworth. "Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis are players that I think we can put (at left back) if needed and we'll certainly try those guys during the year."

As for Richards, he did not train on the Monday and is recovering from a groin injury. The 18-year-old Trinidad and Tobago youth international stands six feet tall and weighs in at 174 pounds.

Read: Union sign Richards, Wheeler

"You've got Damani coming in at left back -- extremely talented individual but needs time to develop," Hackworth explained. "He needs the experience professionally. He's got a wealth of experience as a youth international but it's a totally different ballgame at the professional level."

Media members and analysts identified Tyson Wahl and Mike Chabala as potential left back targets in the MLS re-entry draft. The Union passed on both players.

Additionally, left backs Jimmy Nealis, Dylan Remick, and Greg Cochrane were available in the second round of the SuperDraft, but the team also passed in that situation.

However, the Union did pick up a long term left back prospect in the MLS Supplemental Draft. Seventeenth pick Uriah Bentick is a left footed player from Liberty University.

"We've got a good nucleus of guys and I think that was a misconception out there, that we were automatically going for a left back," explained Hackworth. "I obviously couldn't say anything, because we hadn't released that we had signed Damani up to that point. But at the moment, (his signing) gives us a lot more depth at the left back position."

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@philadelphiaunion.com