Union offense thriving under Hackworth


CHESTER, Pa. -- Scoring just eight goals in their first 11 games of the 2012 season, the Union were considered offensively inept and in desperate need of life.

Enter John Hackworth as the interim coach.

Since the coaching change on June 13, including the 3-0 win over Toronto FC on Sunday at PPL Park (see story), the Union have rattled off an amazing 10 goals in four MLS games. Counting the 10 goals in three US Open Cup games, which all featured Hackworth on the sidelines, the team has 20 goals in seven games.

The boost has led the Union to a 3-1-0 record in their last four matches and has completely turned around a pitiful season.

The connection to the guy next to you in front of you and behind you, there are a lot of guys on the same page right now and they are playing for each other, said Hackworth. Thats what a good team is all about. We displayed that Sunday.

But what specifically has caused this offensive turnaround? Obviously, starting previously banished Jack McInerney, who has three goals in his last five games, and Antoine Hoppenot, who created two goals in his last four, have helped the cause. However, Hackworth chalks it up to freedom.

We have good attacking players and they feel like they have freedom to go to goal and weve been encouraging that, the coach said. Fortunate for us, they are finding the back of the net and that means everything. Were doing it with a lot of different guys, our attack is mobile and I think that makes it hard for opposing defenses. At the end of the day, players are making plays and thats fantastic to see.

Another reason for the increased attack could be a trickle-down effect. According to Hoppenot, players like Lionard Pajoy and Michael Farfan, both with one goal in their last four games, are benefiting from the space that McInerney is providing.

McInerney earned a key assist on the Union first goal to Gabriel Gomez on Sunday

Since Hackworth took over, Jack has been on fire, hes given us a lot of energy, said Hoppenot. He makes it easier on the rest of the players, hes one of the big reasons were doing so well.

Meanwhile, right back Sheanon Williams has tapped the law of averages for the Unions potent revelation.

All year weve been capable of scoring goals, they are just falling for us now, said Williams. Were going to continue to ride it. Jack coming in has been a big part of that, hes been extremely dangerous. Antoine gets at least one chance a game. If he can keep scoring, well be in good shape, too.

But possibly the most meaningful explanation behind the sudden offense was best summed up by Gomez, who, through a translator, kept it simple.

The team is getting some confidence, said Gomez. It gives us an opportunity to get wins.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com.

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