Philadelphia Union starting 11 before the final home match of last season. John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Union: John Hackworth Says Young Players Key in 2014


Philadelphia Union management will go into this off-season hoping to make it one of the biggest and most successful in the clubs short history. With the departure of Piotr Nowak, pressure on the clubs salary cap has been alleviated, allowing for Philadelphia to pursue younger, more promising talent.

Brazilian footballer José Kléberson’s loan spell from Brazilian club Bahia is up.  Kléberson is the most expensive player to ever lace up for Philadelphia but also one of the most accomplished. His tenure with the Brazilian national team has seen him win a world cup in 2002. John Hackworth said this about the Brazilian:

“I think Kléberson wants to come back, and I’ve said all year long that he was a good acquisition for us at the time,” “But it would have to be at a much, much different level of contract.”

The second part of that quote is most likely alluding to a massive pay cut that would come if the two parties were to reach a deal.

The impending departure of Kléberson and a few other high earning players, but not necessarily high output players will allow the Union to go out and purchase much more affordable and talented prospects this winter.

In 2013, Philadelphia was one of the youngest teams in the league, with seven of the eleven most used players being under the age of 25. Philadelphia’s leading scorer Jack McInerney is just 21 and top goalkeeper Zac MacMath is 22. MacMath was able to set the MLS record for most clean sheets in a season before he turned 22 years old. Zac said this about the youthful team:

“The young guys that we have are all really good guys,” “We’re still inexperienced as players but we’ve taken a lot away from the last couple of years. If we can stick together, having that core group will definitely help the team in the future.”

Hackworth will look to build a team around the existing players. The defense of Philadelphia average just 23 years old, consisting of Okugo, Williams, and Gaddis. The Union will look to build a midfield around striker Jack McInerney. Earlier this month McInerney talked about the team saying:

 “This team really works on youth and building it up,” “The first two years of the draft, we all came through and right now it’s kind of paying off for them. We’re getting better and better each year. The expectations weren’t that high this year, but I think we kind of made them seem higher than they should have been. So it’s a good sign, especially going into next year with all the experience we gained from his year.”

With McInerney and Amobi Okugo being Philadelphia’s most accomplished young players Hackworth has said many other young players will get the chance to step up this year, including Michael Farfan, Danny Cruz, and Antoine Happenot. The Union manager made a bold statement saying that the Philadelphia Union have some of the best youngsters in the league.

Hackworth told MLS reporters:

“We have to add the pieces that are essential for us to take the next step,”“But for the most part, our young core of players is going to lead the direction.”

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Tags: Philadelphia Union