The celebration seemed spontaneous, but Danny Cruz knew exactly what he was doing.
Cruz scored the first goal in the Union's stunning, 2-1 upset at MLS champion Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night. Then the midfielder sprinted to the sideline and threw his arms around manager John Hackworth, joined by several teammates.
It was "definitely something we talked about before," Cruz said after the game. "We are behind him. He knows we are behind him, and we've tried to make that clear to the media, to the fans. Tonight was big for everybody, including him."
"Big" may be underselling what the Union pulled off in Kansas City. The club had not won a game in nearly two months. Its only scores in five games were a penalty kick and an own goal.
The frustration boiled over last Saturday, when some home fans chanted "Fire Hackworth." Those calls, which grew louder through the week, seemed to galvanize the Union.
"You saw a little bit of a different team. You saw a team willing to fight for each other," Cruz said. "We've been lacking that fight, and it came out today."
Before the game, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz issued a statement saying "we stand behind" Hackworth. He also vowed to find more help for the team's struggling offense.
"We are very active scouring the marketplace to find and bring in attacking talent," Sakiewicz said.
For one night, at least, finishing was not a problem. Midfielder Cristian Maidana, who also has drawn criticism for a slow start, was in the middle of both goals.
His shot created the rebound Cruz pushed across for the first goal. And after Sporting tied it in the 81st minute, Maidana needed just 30 seconds to put the Union back ahead with a curling strike.
The performance came without stalwart midfielders Maurice Edu (concussion symptoms) and Brian Carroll (groin strain) in the lineup. Edu joined the U.S. National team in California for a two-week camp.
Sporting, meanwhile, had their entire lineup available, including national team members Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.
"That was an incredibly gutsy performance against probably the best team in the MLS," Hackworth said. "We didn't play our best soccer, but we got the goals when it mattered."
The Union will need to summon the same effort Saturday at PPL Park. The New England Revolution are unbeaten in five games, including a 5-0 drubbing of Seattle last week. The streak has carried them into second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Union have just one win in five home games this season.
"We walked into the locker room and said we are focused on Saturday now. . . . It's a quick turnaround," Cruz said. "Our home form has not been good, and it needs to turn around. This is certainly a result we can build off of, and I think you will see the same fight."