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Can Philadelphia sideswipe DC United’s playoff hopes?

DC United v Philadelphia Union

CHESTER, PA - JUNE 16: Interim head coach John Hackworth of the Philadelphia Union stands on the sideline during a game against DC United at PPL Park on June 16, 2012 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The United won 1-0. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

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Do managers truly believe themselves when they say their teams are not out of the playoff race – even when only the most implausible series of events could somehow resuscitate those post-season hopes?

I always doubt it. More than likely, the manager just feels boxed in, like there’s no choice. Being something less than totally honest is preferred, they likely adjudge, to rank capitulation.

So when Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth insists his team is still in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, most of us just smile and nod and move on. After all, we can read the standings.

But we should all nod with vigorous approval when we read Hackworth’s further sentiments regarding tonight’s contest at D.C. United. The side from RFK badly needs a point, at least, having watched Columbus prevail last night and pull temporarily back ahead in the neck-and-necker for that fifth and final playoff spot.

Hackworth sounded positively devilish when he said he’d love to throw a spanner in the DCU playoff works.

Nothing could be sweeter. I think we use that to motivate us. But honestly, if I have to motivate somebody in that locker room, something’s wrong. It’s a rivalry game. We’ve already had tension going back and forth, cards flying. ... I hope I don’t have to do too much motivation, but I guarantee I’m going to use everything I have to throw at them: Playing the last game in this (season) series at home, and we owe it to them. We want to put a little dent in their playoff hopes.”

Tonight’s match from PPL Park starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The match preview is here.