Despite loss, Union learn a few lessons

Nowak: "This is how the men play"

Peter Nowak, Philadelphia Union

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The long flight back to the East Coast won’t be a particularly
happy one for the Philadelphia Union. Beaten 2-0 by the Seattle Sounders
in
their first-ever MLS match, the league's newest team showed it has a lot
of work to do.

But coach Peter Nowak and his players will board the plane with a
better understanding of where they stand and what it will take to
compete in
their inaugural season in MLS. Too many sloppy plays, too little
cohesion—all to
be expected from a club playing its first-ever competitive match—marked
this trial
by fire, especially for rookie striker Danny Mwanga, who started in an
unfamiliar central-midfield role.

“We just have to play smarter,” said Mwanga, the No. 1 overall
pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. “Cutting out the mistakes and
playing
better as a team are also very important.”

Down 1-0 early on, the Union’s chances of getting a result took a
major blow when rookie Toni Stahl was sent off just before halftime for a
knee
to the back of Freddie Ljungberg. But playing a man down the entire
second
half, according to Nowak, inspired the visitors to play more cohesively.

“Overall, I think we saw that even playing with 10 men, we were
able to keep a stadium of 40,000 people pretty quiet in the second
half,” Nowak
said. “We played much better and the heart was there, even playing with
10
men. It was a good effort.”

The Union saw five yellow cards in the match—including one to
captain Danny Califf in the first minute—and Nowak insisted that this
league
isn’t for the faint of heart. The veteran coach suggested Seattle played
a bit soft.

“This is the men’s squad,” the coach said. “I’m sorry, but this is
how the men play. Like I said about the fouls and the baited fouls, we
had
something like eight fouls and six yellow cards ... a little bit too
much for our
standards.”

Califf felt the referee’s whistle got a bit out of control and
hindered the Union from playing the way they wanted.

“It changed my thinking a little bit,” Califf said on his early
caution. “Obviously, I try to impose myself on the attackers straight
away and
it just happened to be seen. I think I was able to adjust though, and
for the
most part we did ok.”

The Union next face D.C. United in two weeks at Lincoln Financial
Field. It's not enough time to solve all the problems exposed in
Thursday’s
loss. But forward Sébastian Le Toux expects a different mind set from
the players.

“We know that we are a physically positive team,” Le Toux said.
“We wanted to come out ready, but unfortunately we got a red card and it
was
hard for us to keep the ball and play the way we wanted to. I hope for
the next
game, our performance will give us plenty of confidence to play better
and try
to win.”