Things are ramping up as we loom closer to Saturday's First Kick. With that said, Union writer Andy Jasner took “The Daily Doop” reins today, filling in for Kerith Gabriel who will be back tomorrow. The video above is from today's Media Day session at PPL Park, which included manager John Hackworth's weekly press conference:
There are 11 spots to be filled in the starting lineup for Saturday’s season-opening match against Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park.
As of Wednesday, those 11 spots are not finalized.
During a wide-ranging 25-minute press conference, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth revealed that the starting XI is far from a completed task. That means the competition in training is likely to be quite fierce heading up to First Kick.
“Honestly, there’s a couple spots open,” Hackworth said. “I’ve been saying it earlier, but that means we have some good competition. It also means we have to kind of keep guys in a really good place to be ready for Saturday, which is a challenge for any coaching staff. To the players’ credit, they have not flinched in that regard at all.
“I think they get it that it’s not as automatic as it maybe was last year. Maybe from guys that are veteran players that won championships in this league to some younger guys, it’s all the same.”
Hackworth and the rest of the technical staff constantly refer to a board in their “war room.” By now, they expected to have the starting XI on that board. Surprisingly, the competition continues.
“A little bit to be perfectly frank,” Hackworth said of his reaction of having a couple spots still open. “I would have thought that the starting XI that we have up on our war room on a board in a perfect world, that same lineup would be the same lineup we’d be rolling out. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. So that means a couple things – maybe some guys aren’t in the position that we thought they were in. Other guys stepped their games up. What it does mean is we feel like we’re a team that has some good depth right now and that’s a great thing for a coach to have.
“I don’t think you can be successful in this league being 13 players, 14 players (deep). You have to go deep in your roster, especially when you get in the bulk of your year. The grind starts happening, you’ll catch some injuries, and guys will get called away to international duty. All those things, you have to be deep. For the time being, on paper, we certainly think we are.”
Despite the uncertainty of the starting lineup, Hackworth is anxious anticipating Saturday’s opener. He believes that healthy competition will produce the best possible lineup.
“Positive. Absolutely positive,” Hackworth said of the competition. “That’ll challenge the coaching staff to get those decisions right. That’s the tough part. But you want that as a coach for sure. I think it’s a different process referring back to last year, it’s a much different process this year of trying to look at a starting 11 or a system and putting definitively, this is a guy we want here.”
In other Union news…
Our “Meet the Team” and jersey unveil was a huge success. Over 1,200 people packed Xfinity Live! in South Philly to see the latest kit from adidas and the response was overwhelming via social media. Here’s what some of our fans via Twitter had to say:
And a personal favorite:
Even Union forward Sebastien Le Toux took to his Instagram to express his gratitude:
Speaking of Instagram…
We told you guys that in addition to our jersey unveil; last night also marked the launch of our Instagram platform highlighted by a contest for best photo posted at last night’s event. That goes to Union fan @budconway who posted this adorable little guy grabbing photos with Union defenders Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis in addition to midfielders Amobi Okugo and Michael Lahoud.
Congrats to you both and thanks for coming out, be sure to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize.
Three more days, people. It’s so close…
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com