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Peter Nowak is letting us down

Peter Nowak is letting us down.

The Philadelphia Union drafted first, sixth and seventh in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. They drafted first in rounds 2 through 4.

There seemed to be a plan: Draft young, develop your players. First overall pick Danny Mwanga, sixth and seventh overall picks Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney were teenagers. Fourth rounder Brian Perk was only 20. When you are an expansion team with a mandate to build for the future, your fans don’t expect you to win the championship. But they do expect you to follow your game plan. And lately, Peter Nowak hasn’t followed the plan he and the Union brass laid out.

After a rough start to the year, the Union got out of the blocks behind a strong performance against a bad D.C. United team. It was one of Sebastian Le Toux’s early eye-opening performances, one of the first times we realized how special he was. McInerney made a late appearance, but the other two first rounders stayed on the bench. We didn’t need them. The older guys – the experienced fellas – had a bounce to their step. Novak wanted the Union to play an open, flowing offensive style. Fred, Alejandro Moreno, Stefani Miglioranzi were calm on the ball and their steadying presence on the pitch was necessary.

But things have changed. The Union are fading fast, and last weekend’s staggeringly poor performance against against that same DC United squad showed that it’s time for major team changes. Young players need to be on the field. That’s how they become experienced players.

For too long we’ve watched a scrappy but flawed Union team suffer the mistakes you’d expect from an inexperienced team — while the experienced players are on the pitch. So what do you lose by giving the younger players some time? Will Toni Stahl make the clearance that Danny Califf whiffed on against DC?

And the scary part is that Califf isn’t one of the players who should lose their spot. His physical presence is needed on a small team. No, the players who should see the bench are the older guys who look, well, older. They are past their prime and that’s why they were available in the offseason. The vets have given a lot to the team, but there are three top 7 picks on the bench who can’t help but make the team better.

When it was clear that the Union were fading from playoff contention, Peter Nowak had two options that could have changed Philly’s fortunes. The first option was to change his tactical system to fit the players he wanted on the pitch. Put out a counterattacking system that gives the defense more midfield support and allows Moreno to play more with his back to goal instead of chasing balls in the corner. Make the outside backs into marking backs. They have struggled to involve themselves offensively since Jordan Harvey’s early season forays forward. Move Fred into the middle and make him a more traditional playmaker.

Option two: Keep the same system, but use different personnel. Give Okugo the chance to turn Miglioranzi’s position into a two-way spot. Nothing is wrong with Miglioranzi, but he’s standing in the way of our developing young talent. Get Roger Torres and Jack McInerney on the field. Let them make their mistakes and learn from them. A finisher like Le Toux, who leads the league in shots on goal, can work with a less than perfect pass.

Of these options, Nowak has chosen neither. The Union continue to play the Nowak style, but the players are weary and the optimism that carried them through the early stages of the season is gone. New signings like Justin Mapp haven’t brought new life to the team.

One more thing: Play Brian Perk. Don’t be afraid to have let goalies battle it out for the number one jersey. In order for a second stringer to grab his opportunity (or blow it, Mr. Knighton), they need to be given an opportunity.

This Union team is lucky to have an incredibly energetic fan base that will stand behind them to the end. And its lucky to have a young core of players who will bring energy to any match. Energy is just a small part of what it takes to win, but every bit helps. And the Union need all the help they can get right now.


  1. Uh oh, you done stepped in it now. I called out Nowak’s game management once and was branded “as useful as Jack Stiller”. That said, I complete agree with you. I appreciate the work that was done to assemble this team and get them off on the right foot, but the desire for immediate success seems to have driven Novak into making some poor decisions. Play the kids, Okugo has improved with every opportunity and he is clearly the future for this team (until they cash in on him in a few years when he moves to Europe). Every match the UNION look a little older and seem to sit a little deeper.

    So yes, let the kids play. They’ll make mistakes, cost us goals, but how is that any different than what is currently happening? And it will give us all confidence that down the road we will have a strong core of polished, seasoned, young talent.

    Great stuff Adam.

  2. Ed Farnsworth says:

    Hear him, Hear him!

  3. I don’t think there will ever be an acceptable explaination when it comes to the Perk situation.

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