Philadelphia Union's John Hackworth confirms interest in Bolton's Zat Knight, but has other targets

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The Philadelphia Union will almost certainly have a new center back on their roster before the 2014 season opens March 8.

And manager John Hackworth has confirmed that Bolton captain Zat Knight is one of the potential targets.

“Truthfully, we have been in some conversations [with Knight],” Hackworth said on a conference call Tuesday, confirming the rumors that recently surfaced. “But at the same time, we are looking at a lot of different countries and have vetted out many different center back options.”

Knight would certainly be an intriguing get.

At 6-foot-6, Knight has been a stalwart of the English Premier League for more than a decade, having played for Fulham (1999-2007) and Aston Villa (2007-09), before signing with Bolton (who were relegated from the EPL to the Championship in 2012). He also earned a couple of caps with England’s national team in 2005.

But the Englishman turns 34 in May, which would make him the oldest player on the Union.

Downplaying Philly’s interest in Knight slightly, Hackworth noted he “talked to Zat’s agents a couple of weeks ago” and that a potential acquisition probably wouldn’t happen until after the Union’s upcoming slate of preseason games, starting with Wednesday’s exhibition contest against the New York Red Bulls at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field (6 pm ET, live steam at newyorkredbulls.com).

“I would think it depends on how these next couple of games go and where we are,” Hackworth said. “He’s certainly one of the guys we’re still considering.”

Following the recent trade of Jeff Parke to D.C. United and loan of Carlos Valdés to San Lorenzo, the interest in acquiring help at center back is certainly there.

As it stands now, 22-year-old converted midfielder Amobi Okugo is the most experienced center back on the Union roster. And rookie draft picks Kevin Cope and Richie Marquez are battling to not only make the team but also contend with Ethan White – who came over in the Parke trade – for the starting center back spot alongside Okugo.

“We still think we need to add a potential center back to our roster,” Hackworth said. “However, it’s been a good battle with players playing well at center back so far. There have been some pleasant surprises out of that group.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.