Featured / Local

I blame Nowak

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Let’s say I’ve got a number.

That number’s 1,100,000.

That’s 38 percent of  2,861,006.

With apologies to The Minutemen, $1,100,000 is the combined base salary of five players on the Union roster that are here because of Peter Nowak. Of that five, one has gone from being a starter to a running joke (Porfirio Lopez), another from being a starter to a $275,000-a-year sub (Gabriel Gomez), while the third has struggled to find minutes as a sub, let alone as a starter (Josue Martinez).

Of the other two, one counts it a good outing if he lasts more than 60 minutes (Freddy Adu), while the other, one of the team’s highest paid players, has been injured since he was acquired (Bakary Soumare—and yes, I know he was signed when Hackworth was the coach, but Nowak is the man who brought him here).

Five players, two of whom look to be busts (Lopez, Martinez), two who have failed to provide the impact their salary would seem to demand (Adu, Gomez), and one who, despite his history, is an even greater question mark now than when he returned to the league from Europe as damaged goods (Soumare).

Throw in Lionard Pajoy (traded to DC in August for Danny Cruz) and Jorge Perlaza (brought here in exchange for Danny Mwanga from Portland and released in late August after piling up 72 minutes of play over a span of 12 league matches—don’t get me started), and the total base salary expenditure of Nowak’s non-draft acquisitions since August of 2011 rises to $1,380,000 of not getting it done .

If you can bring yourself to set aside the immeasurable costs of throwing away a player like Danny Califf — someone who had every intention of remaining with the club long after his playing days were over to share his invaluable leadership skills, not to mention the deep experience derived from a long and successful MLS and international career— then Michael Lahoud might be the only Nowak non-draft acquisition since August of 2011 that has provided something even close to a fair return on what he is paid.

You can only do so much with what you’ve got

Saturday’s loss to Houston only underscored the mess of a roster that John Hackworth was left with when Nowak was finally canned. Where to start?

Well, instead of finding a veteran replacement for Faryd Mondragon, Nowak opted to go with a second-year keeper as his starter.

The back line remains as lacking in depth now as it did at the end of the 2011 season. Poor form here, an injury there, and it’s a shaky high wire act of players being played out of position.

The midfield is a shambles, with the conservative tactics of constantly playing two holding midfielders necessitated by the need to provide cover for a transition into the attack that is as much marked by inexperience as it is with promise. On top of that is what can only be described as inconsistent and all too often gutless play from the two highest paid players on the team, players who are supposed to be difference makers and are instead disappearing acts.

Up top, there are a total of four options who combine for an average age of 21.25 years. Our team leader in goals isn’t even old enough to buy a beer to ease the pounding his 5’10”, 150 lb. frame suffers up top as the lone striker because a viable option to play along side of him doesn’t exist on the roster.

Yet despite these limitations, Hackworth has—through the play of a core group of regular starters and other players who have battled for the opportunity to show their worth and then used those opportunities to show that worth to us— provided us with glimpses of what the future might hold.

No doubt, his tactical acumen has been questionable at times. But Hackworth took over a sinking ship, a ship whose frame was already damaged by hubris and cappabar (bear with me, I’m trying to complete the nautical metaphor here), not to mention the by all accounts tyrannical and capricious leadership of the previous skipper.

I blame Nowak

Still, whatever final disappointments may be in store from a season littered with them, I cannot place blame at the feet of Hackworth. He can only do so much with what he has.

No, I blame Nowak.

I blame Nowak for making a mockery of the fans’ faith by destroying the hopes and expectations that reverberated in the months after the 2011 season.

I blame Nowak for poorly preparing the team before the start of the 2012 season.

I blame Nowak for poisoning the fans’ faith in the team by throwing veterans like Sebastien Le Toux and Califf under the bus, all while lying about it through his teeth.

I blame Nowak for neglecting the development of young players who were already on the team (Mwanga, Jack McInerney, and Amobi Okugo) before this year’s acquisitions by either throwing them away or not playing them.

And I blame Nowak for bringing in a succession of overpriced disappointments who rarely are seen to play with a fire and consistency of belief that matches that of the Union faithful.

So take this pass, John Hackworth, and use it well. The offseason approaches and we will all be watching.

32 Comments

  1. I blame Nowak, but I also blame Nick Sak for the club’s complete lack of interest in scouting. Every one of the disappointments you list except one was brought in because they were acquaintances or former clients of Gutierrez. That one exception was Freddy Adu. And the one significant move Hackworth has made was to bring in a guy he knew from before. Who’s out there beating the bushes to bring in *new* faces? Until this club’s scouting becomes more than going through the front office’s Rolodexes and occasionally going to an FC Delco or Harrisburg game, the Union will be hard-pressed to be competitive.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Great point. Like I said, the offseason approaches and we will all be watching. If the club is smart, they won’t keep us wondering for long about who will be brought in to improve the team, whether that means new players or new members of the technical staff.

  2. I couldn’t say it any better. Bravo Ed! And here’s to 2013, Cheers!

  3. Sebastien L. says:

    I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone who wouldn’t blame Novak for this shambles of a season the Union has endured.

  4. Mwanga and Le Toux get hardly any minutes for their respected clubs. There must be a reason for that. Califf is on the tailend of his career. Bakary is a wait and see situation. Either he is injured or just not in top shape. But it seems that this page targets any Union player on the roster right now who makes over $100,000(except Valdes) who was a Nowak acquisition. Don’t get me wrong,I’m a Hackworth guy. But all the hate has always been for Adu,Gomez,Ruiz. Lopez came to the U and totally disappointed,that I agree with. I think a lot of Union fans have to get over the whole”we only love gritty,low paid blue collar player” stuff. I’m still bitter over the treatment Ruiz received from fans for basically doing what he was brought here for, scoring goals. Never a peep about Le Toux’s first 6 scoreless months last season.

    • You’re right that Ruiz got a raw deal—once he was here, he shouldn’t have left, considering the goals he did score—but both players got the response their effort and application seemed to justify. One played hard, all the time, no matter what; the other looked disinterested, but scored.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      In terms of base salary, the only Union players other than Adu, Gomez, Soumare and Lopez who make $100k or more are Valdes, Carroll, Cruz and Torres. Who doesn’t love Valdes, respect Carroll, and want the best for young prospects like Torres and Cruz (who received a rave from one PSP writer last week)? In the past we also loved and/or respected higher paid players like Califf, Le Toux, Moreno, Orozco Fiscal and Mondragon.

      It’s not that “”we only love gritty, low paid blue collar players,” it’s that, of those who consistently play with a spirit that matches the the devotion Union supporters have for the club, so many are low paid players like Gaddis ($33,750), Garfan ($46,200), Hoppenot ($44,000), McInerney ($76,000), Marfan ($57,200) and Okugo ($90,000). It’s probably not a coincidence that these are all also young players who grew up with reaching MLS as a motivation for working hard toward their career aspirations, where playing in the league for a well supported club has real personal meaning.

      • Do you blame Nowak for selling LeToux for the allocation money to complete the transfer for Torres? Torres should make your list of high priced busts if you’re adding Adu for his inability to last 90. Torres can’t crack the starting XI of the 16th best team in MLS.

        I don’t disagree with your premise, but Nick S. is the Commodore of this Bridge Barge. And I’m not willing to absolve Hackworth for dismissing the scouting and staff and not bringing in a player during the transfer window.

  5. What I want to know is how far-fetched it would be to re-acquire either or both Califf and Le Toux. Is that possible? Neither player seems like a lock to stay with their current team, but what are the odds? Not to mention, would it be a sensible thing to do, outside of sentimental reasons? We could certainly use Califf, and Le Toux might be the stretch forward partner Jack needs.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      Probably not that hard, it ain’t like they are playing their way to a better contract. But is it really what this team needs? Califf I can see – as a depth and veteran leadership option. But he needs to be ok with being a backup.
      Le toux – no. I’m sorry. Nice guy. Did well for us. He isn’t what we need. In fact, I am not sure why the FO said that – Jack is the player who stretches the field for us. We need a big body, someone who is an all around good player but can hold the ball and actually play with his head and back to goal.
      Le toux isn’t that at all. And with Hopponet our go to sub, we don’t need Le Toux anymore.

      • I think you at least consider Le Toux. He is lost up there in NY and you could probably get him back cheap. Califf, I dunno. He’ll be 33 at the start of the season. I would like to see him come back as a coach at some point though.

      • Yeah, I can see that (re: Le Toux). Not sure we need an Andy Carroll type target man, per se, but someone with a little height and hold-up skills would probably complement Jack better than another runner. As you say, Le Toux is sort of the grown-up version of Hopp, and Hopp and Jack don’t have much chemistry, at least not in our current formation.

      • Speaking of someone with a little height and ball skills, doesn’t that describe Keon Daniel? Is putting Keon up front next to Jack crazy? I mean, all this talk of getting a partner for Jack implies a formation change, anyway, to 4-1-3-2 or something, so it’s likely not happening until next season, but I’d be interested in seeing Keon up there, just to see.

      • My problem with the Kion thing is he has the tool but doesn’t seem willing to throw his body in there the way Andy C. And other big men do

    • Not far-fetched at all. Le Toux will probably be available in the reentry draft because he’s out of contract at season’s end. The question is whether Union management think he’s the right compliment to McInerney. He won’t get what he wanted in January. He can probably be had for about $250-275k.

      As for Califf, the path is more complicated because the Union now have three starting quality CBs.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Why would we want to re-acquire Le Toux and Califf. That’s not progression. Both are on the downward end of their careers and both are not cheap. We need to move on from that mindset. The club needs to seriously look in to acquiring real talent, that can benefit the team for years to come.

  6. Steff Worthington says:

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said.

  7. Ed, you are right and all is well said. The problem I have is that Hack is Nowak Jr. (as someone said on some forum). Hack is too closely associated with the past. Nick should not have made his position permanent; starting with someone new would have been much better. Nick may actually be the one who is most to blame…

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      Not sure I can call Hackworth that. I mean, from the sounds of things, Nowak was into some pretty shady things first of all.
      Second of all, also from the sounds of things the palyers arent ready to revolt under Hackworth either.
      Both extol the virtues of youth but that isnt enough to call him nowak jr.

  8. Hard to argue with your comments, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture: This team appears to have no money.

    That’s why there is no scouting, there is no training facility, only bargain basement players get signed, anyone with a decent salary who can be moved, is moved, etc.

    We hear all the time about David Montgomery, Jeffrey Lurie, Ed Snider, the new Sixers owners. How many Union fans know who owns the Union?

    • Related point: The off-season will be telling, both for who, if anyone, gets signed, and who gets sold.

      My gut is that anyone with value (Valdes, Okugo, Carrol, Marfan) could be on the block.

      Welcome to Toronto FC South?

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        Think you’re jumping overboard here with little to go on. Yes, you can point to some instances in the past, but I am not sure why Nick S/the organization as a whole gets as much of the blame as Nowak.
        Remember; Nowak was a star expansion coach signing. He had a 10 year contract. He was given a fancy, new title before this season. You don’t do those things as a owner only to step on his toes and stick your nose into everything. You do those things because you gave him the reins because you trusted him.
        Obviously, it didn’t work out. But then Nowak was fired. And if anything, for Nick S to fire him after basically giving Nowak all that power was a GOOD sign I think.
        I am not saying we are rich and will spend and spend, but I’m just wondering how you get from “financially cautious ownership” to “Toronto FC South” when Nowak was the judge, jury and executioner for all of these events.

      • I’m just curious how you got to “financially cautious ownership” when almost everyone of the deals over the last two seasons was to either bring in allocation money (Harvey, Le Toux) or a player with a lower salary (Lahoud, Cruz)? I’d judge them on their actions, which point not to financially sound management (the Torres deal looks worse every week), but to question whether or not this team actually has the financial chops to make it in this league.

        As for Hackworth, before we go piling on the plaudits for his management, look at what’s in it for him. He gets his first real managing gig. If he gets this team to bubble up to .500, he can parlay that into landing a job with a team that can finance winning. If the team crashes and burns, he can state I did what I could with zero resources. Nothing but upside for him.For the Union, they got a hungry coach on the cheap, without any embarassing rejection from established coaches not into steering an under water team. If you were Steve Nicol, would you want to come here?

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        Also (sorry for pounding home the point) but why is not spending, spending spending a bad thing? The two best teams in the league this year are amount the bottom in salary. There are as many multi-million dollar DPs who have produced less than Jack or Marfan as there are successful DPs.

      • Low budget teams can be the best in the league but only if they have a top notch coach (as the two best teams in the league have). Don’t think Hack is top notch based on what I have seen strategy-wise and getting the best out of players. Sure, he got the best out of some, but not out of the majority of players.

  9. DarthLos117 says:

    It’s my fault. I assume all blame. You don’t know the power of the dark side.

  10. 1.The U are 8/9/4 under Hack with a lineup butchered by Peter Nowak. Respect those results. That effort was Herculean.
    2. Union Jack, regardless of physical stature, is a CF. Le Toux excels at crashing in from the right side and he knows how to finish. After questioning the effort of so many currently overpaid Union players why not bring back a guy who has already produced for the team. He could be even better as a RF with Jack occupying the center of the pitch and oftentimes both of the opposing CBs.His effort, hustle, and leadership were never questioned. Neither was his dedication to the club where he had his two best seasons
    3. We are not a big budget team and most likely never will be. Hack has the respect of the locker room and seems committed to the young players and youth development. The Califf’s, Carrol’s and Le Toux’s are the type of players we need to compliment a talented youth core that will probably always, unfortunately,be in a state of flux.
    4. It might be time to think about signing a veteran goalkeeper, but only if the right one becomes available. There is no questioning Zac’s talent but his confidence level has been drained. The drain in confidence has led to his raw traits being exposed(though it could be vice versa). That being said, I would only support hiring a veteran with savvy and the proper acumen. In truth I just don’t know how many of those types are available/affordable.
    5. I really hope The Union are able to excise the large remainder of Gutierrez’ junk in the off season so that there is the availability to make a few moves.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      Good points. For 4; how about Friedal or Hahnemann? I agree with your point about having it be the right one, we aren’t really looking to replace Zac, just get a capable backup who can also help him.

      • I would love either. I’m not sure we have the sex appeal or money to afford either one due to their comprehensive resumes. Not sure Friedel has relinquished his grip on the Spur’s job just yet. Hahnemann would have to have no hope of taking the #1 GK Seattle before considering a switch. He would be a perfect fit to take the reins for next season though. Our defense has been stout year in and year out, a guy like Hahnemann would have us back in the playoffs.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      I absolutely agree, the results should be respected. The post came out of a discussion I was having with fellow writers after the Houston game in which I thought too much blame was being placed on Hackworth. Like I said, he can only do so much with what he has. I should have made clear how, given that, he has accomplished a great deal.

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