For the first time since being elevated to interim team manager, John Hackworth will guide the Philadelphia Union on the road.
He doesn’t expect things to be all that different.
The message is simple: just keep playing the same way as in the last three matches and everything will be fine.
Since Hackworth took over for Peter Nowak, the Union lost a hard-luck 1-0 match to D.C. United. They came back and registered a dominating 4-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City followed by a 5-2 victory over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Next up is a difficult match Saturday night at Houston.
“We’ve played three really good games in a row,” Hackworth said. “Play one, it’s a great game and you can write it off. Play two, and then you start to think, ‘Hey, maybe we can do this every time.’ Play three, and although I thought we took our foot off the gas at times, it was very encouraging. We’re playing the same way, same style, same amount of energy and effort.”
Philadelphia’s match against the Dynamo (5-5-5) will be one of nine in 36 days. That’s a daunting stretch, and it will be a major test for Hackworth in terms of keeping players fresh.
“We’re going to have to manage minutes of guys really well,” Hackworth said. “We’re going to have to rely on depth in our locker room. A lot of guys will get opportunities to play. A lot of guys will be very important pieces to this, both starting and coming off the bench at times.”
Right back Raymon Gaddis is suspended for this match while Sheanon Williams is still on the mend from a fracture of his right big toe. Williams could see action against the Dynamo.
Regardless, Hackworth may use some different combinations.
“We’re going to have to do an excellent job with the medical staff, making sure we optimize all the ways we (regenerate) and recover,” Hackworth said. “Hopefully, we can stay healthy through that whole stretch. It’s a big challenge, but it’s one we’re looking forward to. I would think guys in that locker room recognize the chance and that it’s a good opportunity for them.”
Asked specifically about Williams earlier this week Hackworth added, “Sheanon is looking good. Looks like he could potentially be back. There’s a big test (Thursday) and a big test Friday to see how he does. He was striking the ball (Tuesday) in pregame and he said he felt pretty good. I’m hopeful we’ll have him back.”
And the Union are hopeful they'll be earning their first victory away from PPL Park in the Hackworth era.
“We feel like we’re playing good soccer lately and we need to just stay with what we’re doing and do the same thing on the road,” said midfielder Brian Carroll. “I think the guys in here have gained a lot of confidence and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
WATCH: Pajoy, Hackworth, Gaddis preview Union-Dynamo