Familiar faces fusing with fresh talent have Hackworth's second preseason going as planned

Plethora of talent in camp, technical staff tasked to pick best

Cruz vs. NYRB in preseason in the rain

Photo Credit: 
Don Montague

The clock is ticking.

Between now and March 8, the Philadelphia Union have a plethora of decisions to make. There are battles to be won, roster spots to be earned.

In preseason scrimmages in Florida, Jack McInerney scored a goal in the Union’s 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution and Antoine Hoppenot recorded a hat trick in a 9-1 victory over the University of North Florida. In a 2-1 loss Wednesday, McInerney netted again in a match where new additions to the roster got their first taste of MLS action. 

Beginning next week, the Union will continue their preseason trek with four more exhibition matches at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

Looming shortly after that is the league’s roster compliance deadline on March 1. One week later on March 8, the 2014 regular season will begin with a tough test at Portland.

“You look at the number of roster spots we have open and available and there’s only a few of them,” Union manager John Hackworth said on a conference call. “So the guys that are on trial and the guys that were our draft picks, they have a tough job. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. But there are good competitive battles and it’s been healthy for the individuals and the team. ”

While there are so many new faces with the club, the goal remains the same in the long run – winning.

“I would tell you that it’s not this perception that there’s this big change,” Hackworth said. “The real big change is that we have some players in our camp right now that can execute the kind of system we’ve continually tried to build. We have a really good foundation of players, guys that are coming back that are part of our core group. And having them come back into what is now my second full preseason, they know exactly what we’re trying to do.

“They know the plan, they know the progression, they know the standards and they know the amount of work that has to be put out. All of those things make our coaching staff’s job much easier.”

From the players’ perspective, nothing has really changed.

“I think you see guys playing hard like it’s the regular season and that’s what you have to do,” Union midfielder Danny Cruz said at a recent training session before leaving for Florida. “I think it’s great to see such healthy competition at every position. I like it that way because I think it pushes myself and all the guys. It makes treat every training session the same and really pushes you to be at your best. You know that you’re fighting for your job.”

Hackworth even said that the club may add a player before the season begins. Nothing is guaranteed.

“We still think we need to add a potential center back to our roster,” he said. “However, it’s been a good battle with players playing well at center back so for sure. There have been some pleasant surprises out of that group.”

What do you think based on the Union's results in preseason so far? Leave a comment below.

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