The calendar year has flipped once again.
For the Philadelphia Union, that means the fifth regular season is on the way.
It wasn’t that long ago that Union CEO & operating partner Nick Sakiewicz was looking forward to the club’s first game let alone its fifth season.
Sakiewicz recently took some time to sit down with Philadelphiaunion.com to discuss a wide variety of topics. In Part I of this Q&A with philadelphiaunion.com, Sakiewicz talks the season that was, the positives, negatives and the steps to improve. In Friday's Part II, Sakiewicz focuses on the upcoming fifth season and answering the rumors surrounding the Union's desire to build a state of the art practice facility.
Philadelphiaunion.com: The MLS Cup championship has been decided and the 2013 season is now over. What’s your view on the season that was just completed?
Sakiewicz: Both clearly a major rebuilding year and fixing the salary cap. I think the technical staff did an amazing job fixing the salary cap and reacquiring a bunch of allocation money. The good news is we won more games than any in our four-year history. And that’s a really good sign that such a young team in here can vie for a playoff spot, one that came down to the very last weekend. The tough part was the Eastern Conference was the most competitive I’ve ever seen it in 19 seasons. Most wins didn’t get us in the playoffs. It’s not good enough. So we have to step back and take a look at what we need to add. It’s not a major renovation project. Probably three or four quality pieces added in with the core that we have gets us there and that’s what we’re expecting to do.
PU.com: Coach Hackworth completed his first full season as the team’s manager. What are your impressions of him?
Sakiewicz: He’s a very experienced coach. He’s coached in two Under-17 FIFA World Cups and he’s been at the FIFA Confederations Cup and has coached on a national level. He’s been with us from the beginning, – two-and-a-half as an assistant and one-and-a-half as the head. I think it’s going to help him a lot in terms of how to further build the roster in this league. It’s a tough league to compete in. It’s physical, fast, and the soccer is pretty damn good. I believe he needs more time to put the pieces in place.
PU.com: Jack McInerney showcased his talent and had a very good season. What did you think of his progress?
Sakiewicz: We love Jack. He’s a player who grew up with this club. We drafted him at 17-years-old when he came here and in some ways, this year was a coming of age year for him where he came out of the blocks hot and as strikers often do, hit a slump. And then towards the end, he found a way out of it again because I think he scored two or three goals in the back end as we were trying to climb into the playoffs. It was too bad the season didn’t go a little further because he could really get out of it. Very excited about him and Jack is an example of who we got and who we are – ambitious, aggressive and talented – lots of upside. Pretty excited about the future of not just Jack but [defenders] Amobi (Okugo) and Sheanon (Williams).
PU.com: What improvements does this club need to make in its fifth season?
Sakiewicz: Fifth season and we’ve got a lot of stuff planned...the single biggest thing we have to do is add the three or four pieces and we’ve allotted quite of bit of money towards getting those three or four players who are experienced, savvy, of high quality that when we marry them up to our core, is going to make this team more exciting. And as a staff, I can tell you we think it’s pretty exciting. We had a lot of memorable games at PPL Park and going forward I have full confidence we'll get those crucial goals that we need to get us into the playoffs.
PU.com: It’s hard to believe that this is the fifth season for the Union and its brand. Has it gone by faster than you thought?
Sakiewicz: Everybody does. Not just me. The Seattle Sounders are a brand that was created in 1973. I was 12-years-old when the Seattle Sounders brand was created. Now, different leagues, different owners, but that brand has not gone away. The Philadelphia Union was created in 2010, four years ago. I think everyone needs to step back and see where this club is today versus where it was four years ago, and more importantly, where it’s going. That’s not always measured in wins and losses on the field. That’s measured in, ‘Look at the investment we’ve made in the youth Academy,' or 'we’re spending millions in developing local talent.' That’s a 10-year plan. It’s not a one-year plan. It’s not a one-season plan. That’s kind of where we’re committed and where that’s going...we started a high school for soccer. We have an Academy now with multiple players. We have an Academy that had three of its players playing in the NCAA College Cup earlier in December. To me, that’s a peek at where we’re going with this club.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org