CHESTER, Pa. – There was only one thing predictable about ex-Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak’s lineups: their unpredictability.
Heading into his second game on Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7 pm ET, TCN), interim manager John Hackworth plans to go with a different approach.
“The one thing I want to do – and the players certainly want it – is create some continuity,” Hackworth said. “The plan is not to make big wholesale changes. We had a good performance [last Saturday vs. D.C. United] and if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
Last week’s lineup – Hackworth’s first in charge – included a few new faces, including Jack McInerney and Josué Martinez as striker and Amobi Okugo at center back.
If Hackworth does any shuffling, it will probably be to insert Lionard Pajoy – who served a one-game suspension on Saturday – back into the starting XI up top. Midfielders Gabriel Gómez and Roger Torres, who are both working toward full fitness after injuries, could also return to the rotation.
But Hackworth said any lineup changes would be minor and that he’ll keep the same 4-3-3 formation from last week – which, coincidentally, is the same system Sporting Kansas City plays.
“I think it will be a great matchup between two teams that are definitely attacking teams right now,” Hackworth said. “I hope we’ll continue the way we attacked from last Saturday and do that here again.”
Although both the Union (2-8-2) and Sporting (9-3-2) come into Saturday’s game with a similar attacking mindset, only one of them has results to show for it and it’s not the Union. Philadelphia has netted a league-worst eight goals this season, meanwhile Kansas City has scored 20.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in the league,” Hackworth said of manager Peter Vermes' side. “Attacking-wise, if there’s somebody else there as dangerous as they are, I probably haven’t seen it. They can hit you in a lot of ways. They’re extremely dangerous.”
On Saturday, Hackworth hopes the Union will be able to beat SKC at their own game: by effectively getting out on the break and finishing scoring opportunities.
“Possession doesn’t win you soccer games,” Hackworth said. “It dictates rhythm sometimes. But we want to get forward better and we’ll have to. I don’t really look at them and say, ‘Hey, we want to steal things.’ But there are things they’re doing well that we can improve on.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org