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Are We Tactically Better Off Under Hackworth?

In the first of a series, Pat The Professor from The Doop Cast looks to the stats for answers.

Drew Hallowell

Are we tactically better off under Hackworth?

Remember when the supporters cheered John Hackworth? When he was introduced after the players on June 16, 2012 it was a rousing, throaty welcome. It had to be better, they reasoned, after what seemed like the waning days of a Latin American despot that characterized the end of the Nowak era - replete with characters named Porfirio and Lionard. And it did get better. Sort of. The Union's form improved through the remainder of the 2012 season and while The U did not make the playoffs, the fans told themselves it was a new day. We all wanted to see what Hackworth would do with a full season in charge. But then the team didn't make the playoffs last year, and we no longer cheered when Hackworth was introduced. Some of us booed instead (if not at the coach at least at his negative team selections).

So what is better, Nowaktics or Hacktics? And how do we judge? To be fair to both, let's compare statistics from the two most similar seasons. Of the four Union seasons we will exclude season one, because it was the expansion year and season three as it was during this season that the managerial change was made. So how does season two under Nowak, where we eked out a playoff spot with 48 points in a weak conference and duly lost to Houston, compare to season four under Hackworth, where we narrowly missed out on a playoff spot with 46 points in a stronger conference?

There are several ways to judge the relative merits of both coaches, and here the focus is purely on statistics to give us a sense of the general intent of the team. In some regards there is little to choose from between the 2011 Nowak Union and the 2013 Hackworth Union. In terms of goals scored per game, the rate was 1.29 in 2011 and 1.23 in 2013, hardly a vast difference. However, the picture becomes a little different when we examine the total number of shots and shots on goal. Looking at rates per game we see 11.97 total shots per game in 2011 increase to 13.5 shots per game in 2013. Similarly, shots on goal increased from 3.97 per game in 2011 to 4.41 per game in 2013. Further, the 2013 Union had just over five corner kicks per game compared to the 4.3 per game earned by the 2011 version. A final, and perhaps more tenuous measure of footballing intent is the number of fouls suffered, in that the more attack minded you are the more you will be fouled, though there should be a ‘Cruz Exception' here. On this measure, the 2011 Union were fouled 11.67 times a game and the 2013 squad at a rate of 12.26 times a game.

All Stats are

Per Game

2011 Nowak

2013 Hackworth

Goals Scored



Shots Taken



Shots on Goal



Corners Taken



Fouls Suffered



Of course none of this addresses some very important factors, such as the style of play, how The Union set up at PPL versus on the road, or the formations and in-game tactics used (those will be examined in a different article). Using cold and unemotional statistics the team is in some ways better off with Hacktics than Nowaktics. When applying other less quantifiable metrics such as a pleasing style of play or attacking intent our hearts might just pick a fight with our heads. Which side are you on? Let us know in the comments.