Changes have to be made from within to get Union back on top of MLS' Eastern Conference

Jim Curtin in, but Union CEO readies search for definitive leader

Professional sports can be a very fluid business.

Heading into Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Philadelphia Union CEO & operating partner Nick Sakiewicz wasn’t thinking of a change in team manager.

But following the 3-3 draw, he changed his mind.

The result was John Hackworth being relieved of his duties and Union assistant Jim Curtin taking over as interim team manager, effective immediately. Curtin’s first test will come Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup when the Union host the Harrisburg City Islanders (7 p.m., purchase tickets). In the wake of the Hackworth dismissal, the club also announced Wednesday that assistant coach and technical director Rob Vartughian was relieved of his responsibilities, the final piece of the four in Philly's original coaching contingent. 

Hackworth posted a 23-30-20 all-time record since taking over as interim team manager on June 13, 2012. He guided the Union to a franchise-high 12 victories in 2013.

“Honestly, up to that point (Saturday), I hadn’t thought about it,” Sakiewicz said. “I was 100 percent in John’s corner and we were trying to figure out a way together how we were going to get some three-point games under our belt. Saturday night was a big disappointment. I know it was great entertainment for you guys and TV with three unanswered goals to get a point. But again, I go back to our fans. They don’t deserve ties at home. They deserve victories."

“They don’t deserve being near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They deserve a team that’s going to be near the top. And ultimately at the end of the day, that’s why I made the decision.”

The 34-year-old Curtin played more than 200 games for the Chicago Fire and was named an MLS All-Star and the Fire’s Defender of the Year in 2004. He helped lead the club to two U.S. Open Cup titles in 2003 and ’06 along with the MLS Supporters Shield in ’03. Curtin played his last two seasons in MLS with Chivas USA before retiring in ’09.

“He knows our culture,” Sakiewicz said of Curtin. “He knows what we’re trying to do. He knows our fanbase. He’s a Philly guy. And he’s got sharp teeth. So I imagine he’s going to put together a plan and this time gives him that opportunity to do that.”

Along with Curtin’s name, the Union plan on a global search for the next team manager.

“We’re looking for experience,” Sakiewicz said. “We’re looking for a coach that has been there, done that, that has won and knows how to win championships in the modern MLS. We’ve got to have coaches and technical staff that can compete at that level, deal with the fan pressure, deal with the media pressure, because it’s not MLS of 10 years ago.”

What are your thoughts on the move? Leave a comment below.

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