Being an MLS expansion team is never an easy task. For the Philadelphia Union, their first season in the league has to be considered reasonably successful.
Ending the year with eight wins and 31 points, the Union played an attractive brand of attacking soccer that caused problems for a number of teams over the course of the year.
Coach John Hackworth thought the expansion campaign was great for the fans, but feels his team had the ability to still be playing competitive matches.
"I would categorize it as extremely successful in that for the Philadelphia sports fan and the specific soccer fan, this was a great inaugural season," Hackworth said after training on Wednesday. "For us within the team, we felt like we should have been in the playoffs and that we've played the kind of soccer that makes us good enough to be there.
"We have made some mistakes along the way and didn't fulfill our end of the bargain in certain situations. While we feel good about some of the great things we did on the field, we know that we could have done better."
Victimized by an unbalanced schedule in the early part of the year, the Union were playing most of their matches away from home as PPL Park was being completed.
Looking ahead to next season, Hackworth is thrilled that the club will be seeing PPL Park -- where they went 7-3-5 including a pair of victories against Celtic FC and Chivas de Guadalajara -- more often in the opening months of 2011.
"We were on the road 8 of the first 10 games and I think (next) year coming into it, we're going to be much better because that's so difficult," added Hackworth. "In any professional sport, to dig yourself a hole like we did and try to climb out of it while you're constantly getting on an airplane. So next year, having a much more balanced schedule will alleviate part of that right away."
The season wasn't all bad, though, and the Union had a number of memorable moments that both fans and the team alike can look back on with fondness before the 2011 season starts four plus months from now.
For Hackworth, there wasn't one particular highlight, but the collective experience is what he'll take with him into the offseason.
"It would be hard for me to put one highlight out there," he said. "From the expansion to the SuperDraft to the first game we played in Seattle to opening at Lincoln Financial Field to the first game at PPL Park, there were so many good moments. In between all of that, for me as a coach, spending time with this group of guys and being able to work with [Manager] Peter Nowak and [Assistant Coach/Goalkeeper Coordinator] Rob Vartughian, there's not one moment that sticks out in my mind."