By JOEL HOOVER
Recovery for a recent thigh pull to Brazilian midfielder Kleberson is going “slower than expected”, according to Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth, who revealed on Tuesday that the World-Cup winning midfielder was taking a while to recover and will likely miss some action.
“With a guy at his age right now, it just takes a little longer. He’s probably not going to be available for selection tomorrow (in the Open Cup).
“He trained today, but we want guys in full training at 100% the day before if we’re going to use them the following day,” Hackworth continued.
He also mentioned that Danny Cruz has a minor shin contusion and that Aaron Wheeler has a sore hamstring, but that the two of them are “fine” and available for tomorrow. Michael Lahoud is also continuing to recover from his sports hernia.
Here’s some more news and notes from the Union camp:
LOOKING AHEAD TO U.S. OPEN CUP VS. D.C. UNITED
For the third straight season, the Philadelphia Union’s path through the U.S. Open Cup takes them to Boyds, MD, as they face struggling I-95 rivals D.C. United tomorrow night at the Maryland SoccerPlex in the Fourth Round.
In the first installment of what has become a commonplace fixture in the competition, United topped the Union 4-2 on penalties after a pulsating 2-2 draw in the 2011 Play-In Round. Philadelphia returned the favor in the Fourth Round last season with a 2-1 win in extra time during their run to the Open Cup Semifinals. Hackworth fully expects tomorrow night’s game to share many of the same characteristics as its predecessors.
“I think it’s going to be a hard, emotional game,” Hackworth said in his weekly presser. “I think D.C. will put absolutely everything they have into winning the game, so we’ll have to make sure that we match or exceed all of those things.”
Hackworth acknowledged such effort will likely come from United because of their poor league form, where they currently sit bottom of the Eastern Conference and MLS with a 1-10-3 record and just six points to their name. D.C. have lost nine of their past 11 matches, with the only non-losses being two draws.
“They had a good result on the weekend, so they may be turning things around,” said Hackworth, pointing out their 0-0 draw with the Revolution. “They’re positive about their result in New England…I just know it’s going to be a tough game no matter what.”
The pressure of the knockout cup competition, combined with the rivalry these two I-95 teams have built up and the intimate atmosphere of the Maryland SoccerPlex, has caused a lot of intense, chippy play in the two prior Open Cup matches. In 2011, both Carlos Valdes and manager Peter Nowak were sent off for the Union in a game that had six bookings total, while both Valdes and Brandon McDonald were sent off for a fight in last season’s seven-card affair. The bad blood is something that both Hackworth and United manager Ben Olsen, two coaches on good terms, have had a hard time understanding.
“Ben and I get along pretty good, even when it’s emotional on the sidelines,” Hackworth commented. “It’s different across the white lines, and I think that’s a good thing. We certainly look forward to it, and whether you’re playing an Open Cup or league game, this rivalry (between D.C. and the Union) is real…it’s always going to be feisty when we play.
“I would be surprised if we finish tomorrow night 11-v-11, so we’ll just have to see how it goes,” he added later with a smile.
Here’s some more news/notes from the Union’s weekly press conference:
WHEELER STEPS IN ON DEFENSE
Philadelphia’s 2-0 friendly victory over PDL affiliate Reading United A.C. last Friday provided Hackworth and his staff a chance to assess some of the fringe players on the squad, a group that has seen little action this season. Among them was forward Aaron Wheeler, who had seen his first action in MLS last week against Columbus but surprisingly was in a new role in Friday’s friendly: centerback.
“We had an injury come up late last week in our planning going into Reading,” Hackworth explained, as he went on to praise Wheeler for an eye-opening performance at centerback that “changed their perspective” amongst the coaching staff.
“For a long time, we thought maybe we need to look outside to bring in a centerback to provide some cover. But he was good…it’s a long-term process if you want to change a foward to a centerback, but Aaron has a lot of those qualities and did well.”
The position adaptability Wheeler showed reminded Hackworth of Jonathan Spector, who had played forward under the Union’s manager for the U.S. U-17 team several years ago and once made a halftime switch to centerback in a similar manner.
“It can happen, but in this case, we had never put Aaron in those kinds of positions in practice,” Hackworth added.
Wheeler, who also headed home the winner in the 30th minute for his first Union goal, was just one example. Hackworth also complemented the Union’s captain on the night, Chris Albright, for a strong performance on defense, and said it eased everyone’s worries about defensive depth a little bit.
What do you think of these developments? Worried about Kleberson’s durability? See cooler heads prevailing on Wednesday night in Boyds? Can Philadelphia keep D.C. in misery, or will it be a difficult game against a side with something to prove?
Share your thoughts below.